Soon after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis came under attack for sanctioning funds from CM Relief Fund to a dance troupe, his office denied any wrongdoing and said that the dance troupe comprising government employees was allocated the funds meant for such activities.
"CM relief fund is not exclusively for drought relief, it can be used to help cultural activity. It wasn't a commercial event it was performing ART competition. CM can use his fund in 8 other section including drought and cultural activity," the statement said.
An RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali had found that the Chief Minister approved Rs 8 lakh for a government employees dance troupe to participate in a competition in Bangkok in December. He sanctioned the sum that was transferred to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for the dance contest.
The issue has sparked a row with the opposition questioning the BJP-led government's "priorities" at a time when the state is reeling under severe drought.
"Maharashtra is facing severe drought and thousands of farmers are committing suicide. Thousands of application are pending before CM. People are seeking relief for chronic diseases like cancer and heart attack. He has no time to take the decision to distribute Rs 5000-10,000 to needy people. Despite that he diverted this fund to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for foreign tour for their own enjoyment. This cannot be tolerated. He should apologise for his shameful act. The money should be recovered from the people who have enjoyed. If not, Fadnavis should pay from his own pocket," NCP leader Nawab Malik said.
"Money meant for relief fund or relief for a particular unforeseen situation is used for all kinds of picadillo in Bangkok. What could be a greater travesty. This calls for the resignation of the Chief Minister. The relief fund is administered by the chief minister directly. If money has been misappropriated for a cause for which the money has not been collected, it is a very serious issue. The CM should resign or the opposition parties together must insist on his resignation," Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
However, BJP defended Fadnavis for his actions and said that the allegation against him were "baseless" and wrong. "Fadnavis' fight against corruption, his credibility, his accountability is being talked about all over the country," BJP leader Shaina NC said adding that complete information should be put in public domain.
Ally Shiv Sena, too, defended the CM saying that it was up to him how to allot funds in the state. "It is the CM's prerogative to utilise the funds the way he wants. There is no violation of rules," sources in the Shiv Sena said.