Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's remarks on corruption and mismanagement in the NCP-controlled water resources department hasn't gone down well with the NCP top brass, with indications that fresh battle lines will be drawn over the issue.
Union agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar said in an informal chat on Saturday that poor budgetary allocation to irrigation projects was the main reason behind cost escalations.
Pawar refused to comment on Chavan's remarks, but rebutted his claims. "For the last 20 years, budgetary allocation for projects hasn't been made by the state. In the meanwhile, costs, including for land acquisition, have spiralled," he said.
Pawar also explained the low irrigated area by saying: "Due to the dispute between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh over water sharing, the government decided to prioritise construction of dams, and then build canals. At that time, it was important to create water storage," he said.
Chavan said on Friday the state had given gifts to contractors, and he was worried how the required Rs 70,000 crore for irrigation projects could be spent.
Despite 1,229 dams, only 17.9% of the state's cultivated land area is irrigated, among the lowest in India.