Mumbai: Investigation in nine cases related to the alleged 70,000 crore Maharashtra irrigation scam was closed on Monday, two days after Ajit Pawar broke ties with his uncle Sharad Pawar to join hands with the BJP and was sworn in as the deputy chief minister.
A letter dated November 25 was issued by the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau officially closing the investigation in these cases. The cases in the scam were first registered in 2014, soon after Devendra Fadnavis became the CM in his first term but had since progressed slowly.
As the Congress and Shiv Sena quickly alleged that this was a case of quid pro quo for Ajit Pawar helping the BJP form the government, sources in the police department claimed it was a “routine matter”.
They said the cases were not against Pawar and were closed on the orders of the Bombay High Court, which had ordered certain action before November 28.
Speaking to News18, ACB’s Director General Paramvir Singh claimed that the closure of the cases had nothing to do with the political developments in the state and was recommended by his department three months ago. “There was no role of Ajit Pawar in these nine cases… the probe is on in other cases. We are probing more than 3,000 irregularities in this scam,” he said.
The curious timing of the government action, however, has raised questions over why it was hurried as the ACB letter has a date scribbled with a pen.
Pawar had served as the deputy CM in the Congress-NCP government between November 2010 and September 2012 before resigning over allegations of the irrigation scam.
As the state’s water resource minister, he was accused of approving 38 projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 by tweaking rules without the specific clearance of the Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
Despite the huge amounts of money spent on various projects, it was alleged that there was no significant rise in irrigated land in the state.
The BJP had repeatedly targeted the Pawar clan over the corruption allegations as it claimed that Maharashtra’s irrigation potential increased by just 0.1% in those years despite an expenditure of Rs 70,000 crore on such projects.
The Shiv Sena has alleged that the BJP had used the corruption cases filed against Ajit Pawar to persuade him to split the NCP and gain his support.
On Monday, Sena spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said now it has become clear why Pawar had decided to join hands with the BJP. "Cases closed, corruption charges dropped, shamelessness to be in power exposed," she said.