Ajit's payback is a calculated move

There are many reasons behind Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s decision to reimburse Rs 27 lakh to the public works department for renovating his bungalow. The amount is what he spent on the overhaul in excess of the allotted repair funds. Pawar’s gesture seems to be an afterthought. He seems to have panicked that the renovation of a minister’s bungalow on the taxpayer’s money may invite ire. His act is certainly in tune with the present mood where people are discussing AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to discard the official residence of the Delhi chief minister.

His ministers, too, have decided to follow him. In this scenario, an outlay of a few crores by ministers in Maharashtra could have far-reaching consequences. The decision may leave his colleagues in the cabinet ruffled, as those who have spent huge amounts in renovating their designated bungalows in Malabar Hill will be forced to follow him. First among them could be none other than Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, whose official residence, Varsha, has been refurbished at a cost of Rs 1 crore. 

People of Maharashtra will question the legitimacy of such renovations, especially since ministers are supposed to vacate their official dwellings once relieved of their charge. It has become established practice for public servants to usurp limited government resources for personal gain — be it official positions, premium land, or grants for cooperative and educational institutes. Pawar, an NCP man, is also embroiled in an irrigation scam. It only added to his woes when the Congressman chief minister distanced himself from him. Now, the NCP is looking for ways to pay back in some way, and its decision to return the money is worth noticing.  

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