Mumbai: In the wake of the clean chit given to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar in the Vidarbha irrigation scam by the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), former chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis said that he had not approved the clean chit and that he was totally against giving it.
Mr Fadnavis said that the ACB officers themselves had filed an affidavit in court and that neither he nor any other government officer was aware of the affidavit. The action had been taken at the level of the ACB itself, Mr Fadnavis said.
In an affidavit submitted to the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on November 27, the ACB ruled out Mr Pawar’s involvement in the Vidarbha irrigation scam. The affidavit was submitted a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government took oath of office.
In the affidavit, the ACB made allegations against engineers, divisional accountants and contractors. The ACB said that there were lapses on the part of the executing agencies of tender work i.e. engineers, divisional accountants and the respective contractors of these projects.
The affidavit however made it clear that the Vidharbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) chairman or minister of water resources department (WRD) could not be held responsible for the acts of the executing agencies as there was no legal duty on his part.
But the court asked the ACB to clarify its stand on Mr Pawar’s role as the former water resources development minister.
On November 25, two days after Mr Fadnavis and Mr Pawar were sworn in as the chief minister and deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, the ACB, which is inquiring into 2,654 tenders related to 45 projects of the VIDC, said that it had closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects. However, it clarified that none of these were linked to Mr Pawar.
“These enquiries were closed as no criminal offence was made out after enquiry against anyone. None of these nine enquiries were in respect to Ajit Pawar, the then-chairman of VIDC,” it said.
Mr Fadnavis, however, later stepped down, admitting that he did not have the numbers to form government.
Mr Pawar was the water resources development minister from 1999 to 2009 when the Congress-NCP alliance was in power. He also served as chairman of the VIDC, which cleared irrigation projects in which irregularities were alleged.