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No funds diverted to Centre: Fadnavis

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MP’s remarks spark a controversy

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday denied “secretly” clearing files pertaining to transfer of funds to the Centre during his short-lived second innings.

The BJP leader said not a single penny of the State’s share was diverted as claimed by former Union Minister and Uttara Kannada MP Anantkumar Hegde.

A video clip of the MP’s remarks went viral on Monday.

At an election meeting on Saturday in Uttara Kannada district, Mr. Hegde said Mr. Fadnavis was made Chief Minister, though he did not have a majority, for a reason.

‘Big drama’

“All of us know. Recently our man became Chief Minister in Maharashtra for just 80 hours. Why did we have to do this drama? Did we not know that we did not have majority? Then why did we do this drama, is a common question everyone is asking. Funds of over ₹40,000 crore were at the discretion of the Chief Minister. If Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena came to power, that money would have been misused. Definitely that money wouldn’t have gone for development, they would have eaten it,” Mr. Hegde is seen as saying in the video.

The funds were allegedly set aside for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project estimated at ₹1.08 lakh crore.

“After learning of this, everything was planned — if need be, create a big drama. So we did some adjustments and swore in the Chief Minister. Within 15 hours after he was sworn in, the Chief Minister ensured the fund will not be misused and gave it back to the Union government. If not, the next Chief Minister would have ...you know what...,” he adds.

Mr. Hegde’s statement drew widespread criticism from parties including the Shiv Sena and the Congress, which hit out at the BJP and also demanded an investigation.

False allegations

Denying the allegations, Mr. Fadnavis said, “Not a singly penny from the State’s kitty has been diverted. I assure you, no major policy decision has been taken in this regard. All allegations are false. Let me tell you the bullet train project is being carried out by the Centre and the State has no role in it, except acquisition of land. I want to reiterate: no money was given, no money was taken from the Centre during the 80 hours I was the Chief Minister”.

Mr Fadnavis added those who know government accounting would understand that funds are not allocated overnight. The Finance Department of Maharashtra government can do an independent probe in this regard, he said. “I am ready to face any probe," he said.

Senior ministers in the newly appointed government in Maharashtra said while they have taken a note of the allegations, the government is unlikely to order a probe at this point. “We have checked with the Finance Department and believe the allegations may not have enough grounds for a probe at this point,” a senior minister told The Hindu.

A BJP leader and former cabinet minister said Mr. Hegde had probably read out a WhatsApp forward doing the rounds for eight days following the change of Government in Maharashtra. “He was misinformed about this 'forwarded message's and made the remark soon afterwards,” the leader said.

Sources said Mr. Hegde's remarks were based on a WhatsApp message that had recently gone viral.

This is not the first time Mr. Hegde has embarrassed his party. Months after he was sworn in as Union minister, he was forced to apologise in the Lok Sabha over his remarks that “BJP had come to power to change the Constitution” in December 2017. He was one of the two BJP candidates who supported the party’s Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh over her “Godse was a patriot” remarks during the 2019 election campaign. He was later served a show-cause notice.

BJP sources say he was dropped from the council of ministers in May 2019 over these instances.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 11:48:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/no-funds-diverted-to-centre-fadnavis/article30145778.ece

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