Anti-Corruption Bureau Exonerates Ajit Pawar In Vidarbha Irrigation Scam
NCP leader Ajit Pawar leaves after attending a meeting of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi leaders at YB Chavan Centre, in Mumbai. (Source: PTI)

Anti-Corruption Bureau Exonerates Ajit Pawar In Vidarbha Irrigation Scam

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Maharashtra's Anti-Corruption Bureau has given a clean chit to Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore Vidarbha irrigation scam.

The ACB, in its affidavit submitted in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, has ruled out Pawar's involvement in cases of alleged irregularities in approval and commissioning of irrigation projects in the Vidarbha region.

The affidavit was submitted on Nov. 27, a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of the Shiv Sena -NCP-Congress was sworn-in the state on Nov. 28.

The court had asked the ACB to clarify its stand on the role of Pawar, a former Water Resources Development Minister, in these cases. Pawar, the NCP MLA from Baramati in Pune district, was Water Resources Development Minister during 1999-2009 when the Congress-NCP combine was in power in Maharashtra.

Pawar had also served as chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, which had cleared irrigation projects in which irregularities were alleged.

The ACB is inquiring into a total of 2,654 tenders related to 45 projects of VIDC as per two PILs filed in 2012 before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

On Nov. 25, the anti-graft agency had said it has closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects, but clarified none of them was linked to Pawar.

"These enquiries were closed as no criminal offence was made out after enquiry against anyone. None of these nine enquiries was in respect to Ajit Pawar, the then chairman of VIDC," the ACB had said.

About the Nov. 27 affidavit, a senior ACB official said the court had asked the agency to submit a 'status report' on the VIDC scam before Nov. 28.

The Bureau has not closed inquiry into the VIDC cases. In some cases they have filed chargesheets and investigation is also going on, the official said. Similarly, investigation into FIRs related to these cases are also going on and they have submitted the status report on investigation going on into tenders that were issued (by VIDC), he said.

He said the high court had asked the ACB to submit a report on the Public Interest Litigation filed by one Atul Jagtap concerning award of tenders in an irrigation project in Amravati. Pawar was named a respondent in this PIL.

"Now, we have got opinion from the government that Ajit Pawar was not involved in it (the scam) and this we have communicated to the court a few days back. Besides, Ajit Pawar was never an accused in any of our cases and investigation into Vidarbha irrigation tender cases are still on,” said the ACB official.

The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, related to alleged corruption, cost escalations and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party rule.

The allegations on Pawar included claims that he awarded projects at inflated prices.

Last month, Pawar had rebelled and joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party to form a short-lived government in Maharashtra where he was deputy chief minister for just three days. He later resigned and returned to the NCP fold.

Also read: No Infrastructure Project Halted In Maharashtra, Says CM Uddhav Thackeray

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