It was not just BJP president Nitin Gadkari who asked the Centre for speedy release of funds for the controversial Gosikhurd dam project.
It has now emerged that Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Manikrao Thakre too asked Union water resources minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to expedite release of funds for the same project.
Through a letter dated February 24, 2012, a copy of which is with HT, Thakre requested Bansal to release Rs. 1,295 crore for the year 2011-12, ignoring reports by two committees which pointed to gross violation of norms.
Thakre, however, told HT: “"I wrote the letter after a representation made to me by farmers and legislators of the region. Unlike Gadkari, I have not written asking for payment of dues to contractors. Clearly, the way this letter has resurfaced points to a political conspiracy to drag my name into this controversy.''
His letter stated that "due to non-availability of funds, [a] whole year's work of all components are (sic) almost stopped, pending liability has risen to more than Rs500 crore. Unless funds are made available immediately, work cannot go on.'' He further wrote: "The project has generated… a lot of employment opportunities for the poor... Also, the payment to cultivators, as compensation for their lands cannot be made."
The letter added that the project catered to a region represented by Congress leaders in Lok Sabha and state assembly, and their credibility was at stake. It added that all issues over complaints against the project had been “briefed and concluded” during a steering committee meeting in New Delhi on February 2, 2011, and an action taken report had been submitted by the state.
Talking to HT, Thakre hinted that the BJP had a hand in passing on the letter as it would indirectly help contractors, who happen to be BJP MPs and MLCs.
He said he would still urge the Centre to release funds for the sake of farmers, as Gosikhurd was one of the biggest projects in Vidarbha. But he would also insist on a probe against contractors for irregularities.
Thakre's letter comes even as party legislator Vijay Waddetiwar sought a CBI probe into alleged graft in the project. A handwritten line at the end of Thakre's letter suggests that the project was held up because of Wadetiwar's complaint. Thakre, however, denied that it was his handwriting and said it was a conspiracy to defame him.
BJP president Gadkari has been under fire over a similar letter to Bansal in July, seeking funds for the project.