Maharashtra : Irrigation and Other Scams Public Loss, Political Self Interest

In Maharashtra, the irrigation scam worth crores of rupees has become a matter of debate among common people and eminent personalities alike. They all have their own respective logic. The funny part is that the workers of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have started bickering among themselves about the irrigation projects, but the leaders and Ministers of the party responsible for the scam are watching this ‘pageant; in a relaxed manner. The altercation has occurred because of letters related to the release of funds for the irrigation projects in Vidarbha written by the President of the BJP, Nitin Gadkari and the State President of the Congress, Manikrao Thakre. The revelations in these letters caused the Congress and the BJP to come face to face, while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is trying to take advantage of the fight between the Congress and the BJP. Ajit Pawar, who resigned recently from his post, is trying to tie his party in a single thread by touring the entire state for the coming Vidhan Sabha elections. On the other hand the Congress and the BJP are preoccupied by their disputes. The NCP is looking forward to taking full advantage of this situation and due to this the leaders of the NCP are at least talking openly about the irrigation projects. At his rallies, Ajit Pawar is saying what he wants to say regarding the irrigation projects.
It has become clear from the letters written to the Union Cabinet Minister of Water Resources, Pawan Kumar Bansal regarding the release of funds for the irrigation projects that the benefits of the contractors are more in focus than the interests of farmers – no matter whether it is the Opposition leaders or the ruling party leaders. All of them are equally responsible for this. The reason behind this is that the contractors to whom the contracts for the irrigation projects were given were considered to be very close to these leaders. A few of those contractors are also occupying seats in the ‘Houses’ of State and the Centre on the sufferance of these leaders. The ‘war’ between the Congress and the BJP started when news came that Nitin Gadkari has written a letter regarding release of funds for the ambitious ‘Gosikhurd’ irrigation project in Vidarbha to Pawan Kumar Bansal on 30 July 2012.

The members of the NCP are enjoying the battle between the BJP and the Congress. Sharad Pawar is saying that the White Paper on the irrigation projects should be issued at the earliest. But the only questions that stand before the farmers of Vidarbha are : when will the Gosikhurd Project be completed? When will their lands  get adequate water for irrigation? When will happiness return to their homes and when will they be able to stop committing suicide as a last tragic resort?

In the letter, Gadkari has recommended issuing 400 crores of rupees to the contractors of the Gosikhurd Irrigation Project. Gadkari has written 2 to 3 such letters to Bansal. Bansal has confirmed this matter publicly. The main reason due to which this letter came into dispute is that prior to this, Anjali Damania, a social worker had accused Nitin Gadkari of ‘covering up’ the irrigation scam. Damania said that she has met Gadkari three times regarding the scam in the irrigation projects. During the meeting she asked Gadkari to help her to unveil this scam, but Gadkari refused by saying that he has personal relations with Sharad Pawar. Now when the letter of the Chief Engineer, Vjiay Pandhare has been unveiled publicly and Ajit Pawar, nephew of Sharad Pawar has resigned from the Deputy Chief Minister ship and the Financial Planning Minister’s post, several new facts are coming out.

Nitin Gadkari has close links with Ajay Sancheti, Member of Parliament (MP). It is been said that Ajay Sancheti has got contracts for the Gosikhurd Irrigation Project. It is also been said that the letter written by Gadkari was for the benefit of Sancheti. After the revelation of this letter, the Congress has attacked the BJP and has also alleged that the BJP leaders had a role in the irrigation scam. The BJP became defensive at this. On this issue, Nitin Gadkari has admitted that he had written letters to the Water Resources Minister and if required he will write in the future. He also said that he had written this letter for the benefit of the farmers, not for the benefit of any contractor. But people didn’t believe this statement made by Gadkari. This is because Ajay Sancheti became an MP with the help of Nitin Gadkari. Not only that, another
contractor of the Gosikhurd project, Mitesh Bhangdia also became a Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council through the quota of the BJP.

If the Congress is attacking the President of the BJP, then how can the BJP leaders of the state remain silent? After all, it has been revealed that the State President of the Congress, Manikrao Thakre, has also written a letter to the Water Resources Minister regarding the Gosikhurd Irrigation Project. The BJP began alleging that the Congress has provided protection to corrupt contractors. The BJP said that the State President of the Congress has written a letter to the Union Minister for the release of funds for Gosikhurd, only in a view for the financial benefit of the contractors. BJP leader and the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Vinod Tawde while making the above charges has demanded an independent high level investigation of the irrigation scam. Several leaders also demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

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Manikrao Thakre has also confirmed that he had a written letter to the Union Minister. He said that he had written the letter to the Water Resources Minister for compensating the losses of the migrants and the ‘victims’ of the Gosikhurd project and for their rehabilitation. He has not written anything for the benefit of contractors. Thakre has claimed in his statement that Gadkari has written the letter to the Union Minister for the benefit of the contractors, but he has written the letter for the benefit of farmers and the ‘victims’ of the project.

After the revelations in the letters of these two leaders, the BJP-Congress leaders have been fighting with each other. BJP Leader, Vinod Tawde, State President of the BJP, Sudhir Mungatiwar and all other leaders of the BJP have come in to the arena to defend their National President. The State President of the Congress, Manikrao Thakre is defending himself on his own. In the meantime, the NCP is enjoying the situation by becoming a spectator of the battle between the Congress and the BJP. The BJP is feeling the heat as the Congress has gone on the offensive. The reason behind this is the close relationship of Ajay Sancheti with the BJP and with Gadkari, and for nominating another contractor of the Gosikhurd Project as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. The people of the state have started believing that all the political parties in the state are blameworthy in this irrigation scam. The proverb that is applicable here is : ‘Everyone is naked while bathing’ (‘Hamam mein sab nange’). First, a scam, and then, politics in the name of that scam – this is the policy which has been adopted by the political parties for their own benefit. On the other hand, till today the farmers of Vidarbha are committing suicide because of their inability to grow adequate crops and also due to the burden of debts. The leaders, contractors and officers are becoming richer, whereas there has been no improvement in the condition of farmers. Their condition is going from bad to worse. But it makes no difference to any politicians because all the things they themselves want are reaching them on time. The farmers have to depend on their farming : if crops grows then it is Diwali otherwise it is darkness.

Political analysts believe that because the name of Ajay Sancheti is cropping up repeatedly in the irrigation scam, the ‘edges’ of the State BJP are becoming blunt. It is noteworthy that ever since Ajay Sancheti has become an MP since, his name is continuously being mentioned in the irrigation scam. First, it was revealed that a driver working in his company and who gets a nominal salary has a flat in Adarsh Housing Society. Later on it was found that Adarsh Housing Society has received a loan worth crores of rupees from the company of Ajay Sancheti. His nephew also has a flat in Adarsh Housing Society. After that when the uproar over the Coal Scam took place, the name of Ajay Sancheti came forward again. Now when the name Ajay Sancheti has come up in the irrigation scam as well, the opposition power of the BJP was reduced and due to this the BJP and Gadkari are feeling embarrassed. It is a different matter that the leaders of the BJP are often accusing the leaders of the Congress and the NCP. Time and again they are demanding an unbiased high level investigation of the irrigation projects. But the repeated inclusion of the name of Gadkari’s close friend in the scams is creating complications for him. The letter of Gadkari has come to haunt his party. Now to get out of this situation, all the leaders are having to expend a lot of energy. Therefore, the State Secretary and Legislator of the BJP, Devendra Fadnavis has made a statement that the BJP would issue a Black paper on parallel lines to the White Paper which would be issued by the Government on the irrigation projects. Fadnavis said that in the Black Paper, the working process of Ajit Pawar and the role of the State Government will be revealed. Efforts are being made to prove that the Opposition Party of the State is infirm. He also said that the resignation of Ajit Pawar is a part of the strategy of Sharad Pawar. Efforts are also being made to divert the attention of the media and the public from the allegations of Ajit Pawar. Thus the members of the NCP are enjoying the battle between the BJP and the Congress. Sharad Pawar is saying that the White Paper on the irrigation projects should be issued at the earliest. But the only questions that stand before the farmers of Vidarbha are : when will the Gosikhurd Project be completed? When will their lands get adequate water for irrigation? When will happiness return to their homes and when will they be able to stop committing suicide as a last tragic resort?

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