Even as speculation over the growing cosiness between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is rife, the corruption probe against former NCP minister and nephew of party chief Sharad Pawar, Ajit, in the irrigation scam in Vidarbha is yet to start.
While the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) is expected to carry out an open i nquiry against former ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare, the agency has got no clear mandate on investigating the massive cost escalations in the Vidarbha irrigation projects. On paper, it seems the probe has been finalised only against 12 dams in Konkan region, including Kondhane, Balganga, Kalu, Channera, among others.
In response to a public interest litigation in the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court, the state gover nment had, t hrough advocate g eneral Sunil Manohar, in December, announced the chief minister’s clearance for an open inquiry by the ACB against Pawar and Tatkare.
The PIL filed by Janhit Manch was specifically about Vidarbha, pertaining to cost escalations in 38 projects to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore. The allegation against Pawar is he cleared cost escalations for these projects unilaterally, bypassing the norms, just before the 2009 polls. The petition had sought an inquiry into the way the tenders for these projects were granted as well as cost escalations, alleging nexus between politicians, contractors and officials.
Investigating officials, however, have not got a written communication from the state or a single file on Vidarbha. “My petition was about Vidarbha projects and the matter was closed after assurance by the advocate general on the probe. I have now learned the ACB has not yet started an inquiry into the Vidarbha projects. No written order has been communicated from the government to the ACB,” said Anil Kilore, the petitioner representing the NGO.
Kilore plans to move the high court in 10 days, unless the government clarifies its stand on the inquiry.
Senior officials seemed confused about the mandate for the open inquiry, with the irrigation officials pointing out that since the preliminary inquiry by ACB was on Konkan projects, the ambit of open inquiry would cover these projects only.
It is being said the BJP gover nment is not keen on an inquiry into the Vidarbha projects, given several projects were being implemented by a company owned by kin of a BJP MP, known to be close to union minister Nitin Gadkari. It is also alleged that Pawars have good relations with senior BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari and Modi.