BJP president Nitin Gadkari has landed himself in trouble by seeking release of funds to contractors, one of whom is considered to be his close aide, engaged in a Maharashtra irrigation project which has been under the scanner.
The Gosikhurd project is embroiled in an alleged scam involving NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who recently resigned as the Deputy Chief Minister of the State, in the wake of charges of corruption. The BJP had mounted an aggressive campaign demanding probe into the scam.
In a detailed letter in July addressed to Union Water Resources Minister P.K. Bansal, Mr. Gadkari batted for the contractors and sought disbursal of Rs. 400 crore dues to them.
Though no names have been mentioned in the letter, the BJP chief's detractors have alleged that it was aimed at benefiting his associate and party MP Ajay Sancheti.
“Due to non-payment of the dues, the contractors stop their works. This may delay the programme and would also result in time overrun and delays in creation of irrigation potential. Presently liability of Rs. 400 crore is pending,” the letter said.
Unfazed by the charge by Congress leader Digvijay Singh, against whom Mr. Gadkari issued a legal notice over allegations related to the coal scam, that the BJP chief was “more of a businessman than a politician,” Mr. Gadkari staunchly defended his action.
Talking to reporters in Mumbai, Mr. Gadkari maintained that he had asked the Centre to release funds to help the farmers. “I wrote a letter to Bansal and will write 10 more... It was done in the interest of the farmers of Maharashtra, to prevent farmer suicides in Vidarbha,” Mr. Gadkari has been quoted as saying.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “The issue is that a Central government project is pending and it should be completed.”
“It is clear that he [Mr. Gadkari] was interested in contractors getting their money which they don't deserve,” the Congress leader alleged.
Last week India against Corruption (IAC) activist Anjali Damania, who has fought illegal dams with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, alleged that Mr. Gadkari had refused to take a stand on irrigation scams since he had a ‘business relationship’ with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.
Mr. Gadkari has vehemently denied the charge and threatened to sue Ms. Damania if she did not apologise for her statements within 48 hours. She has stuck to her charge and asserted that she had met the BJP chief on more than one occasion seeking his help in unearthing the scam.