Announcing his decision to quit the Prithviraj Chavan-led Democratic Front government in September over allegations of a massive irrigation scam, NCP’s Ajit Pawar had said he was in favour of a white paper on the irrigation sector and its early release. He also supported a thorough inquiry into the delays and cost escalations in projects. Now, with talk of the white paper’s impending publication, political circles are abuzz with speculation over Pawar’s comeback plans.
But the white paper is not a chargesheet, a fact that the CM made clear a few days ago. Chavan said the white paper was wrongly being made out to be a chargesheet. Chavan, who has spent a long time at the Centre, said in Delhi a white paper was a fact-sheet on a particular subject. It is apparent that the CM had to clear the air on the white paper after considering the fact that he runs a coalition government in which the NCP is an integral part. If the white paper turns out to be a chargesheet or becomes a part of the ongoing blame game over the maladies in the irrigation sector, the government may not last long.
There are two aspects to the controversy over the state’s irrigation sector. One is the state economic survey 2011-12 saying just 1 pc irrigation potential was added in the last 10 years at a cost of Rs 70,000 crore and the argument subsequently made by the NCP-led irrigation department that the survey figure was fishy as it was arrived at after combining figures provided by the Congress-led agriculture department.
The second part of the row deals with allegations of corruption involving inflated project costs and completion delays to benefit the contractor lobby.
After the facts mentioned in the white paper are studied, an inquiry can be demanded for any shoddy work, delays or inflated costs. Whatever the white paper throws up, the fact remains that Pawar does not immediately stand absolved of the charges of corruption made by insiders like Vijay Pandhare.