Just two days after NCP leader Ajit Pawar took oath as Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra in the Devendra Fadnavis led government, today several media houses reported that the anti-corruption bureau has dropped the irrigation corruption case against him. The scam valued at around Rs 70,000 crore relates to alleged corruption and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects in Maharashtra during the Congress-NCOP rule before BJP came to power in 2014.
Super exclusive breaking . Anti corruption bureau gives the clean chit to @AjitPawarSpeaks who was alleged involved in the Rs 70,000 Cr irrigation scam. The clean chit is given to today. This investigation file has been closed down today. #MahaPoliticalTwist #MaharashtraCrisis pic.twitter.com/LW5rDlwqIr
— KattaNews (@katta_news) November 25, 2019
Media reports said that the anti-corruption bureau has given clean chit to Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam case.
Immediately after the media reports, opposition leaders started slamming the BJP government alleging quid pro quo. Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Charturvedi tweeted, “Cases closed, corruption charges dropped, shamelessness to be in power exposed”, posting a copy of the notification apparently closing the cases against Ajit Pawar.
वाह वाह सत्ता का खेल,
अब पता चल क्यूँ हुआ ये मेल
जाँच हुई फेल
ना लेनी पड़ेगी कोई बेल
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) November 25, 2019
Congress party also launched an attack on the government for the same. Abhishek Singhvi said that the move to issue the notification is the most brazen, shameful act of conspiracy and corrupt practice of quid pro quo.
No wonder, as a matter of a ‘quid pro quo’ between BJP & Ajit Pawar, ACB has decided to close the case against Ajit Pawar in irrigation scam worth ₹72,000 Cr!
Sermons by BJP & by @Dev_Fadnavis on corruption were nothing but a JUMLA.#HorseTradingExpertBJPhttps://t.co/wzISWcdbeV
— Maharashtra Congress (@INCMaharashtra) November 25, 2019
Alleging ‘quid pro quo’, Maharashtra Congress tweeted that the sermons by BJP and Devendra Fadnavis on corruption were nothing but a ‘Jumla’.
After the news evoked strong reactions, the Maharashtra government issued a clarification saying that in the list of cases being circulated on social media, none of them belongs to the irrigation scam case against Ajit Pawar.
Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) DG, Parambir Singh to ANI: None of the cases that were closed today are related to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar. pic.twitter.com/bX4KMy83Ej
— ANI (@ANI) November 25, 2019
Talking to media, the ACB said that in 9 out of more than 3000 tenders probed by the ACB, it was found that Ajit Pawar played no role, and the cases in only those 9 cases were closed. This was done ahead of the 28th November deadline given by the Bombay High Court to file a status report.
#NewsAlert — We had recommended this almost three months ago that there was no role of Ajit Pawar in these nine cases; probe is on in other cases. We are probing more than 3,000 irregularities in this scam: DG Paramvir Singh pic.twitter.com/N860IpjRqU
— News18 (@CNNnews18) November 25, 2019
The ACB also informed that the 9 cases have been closed on a conditional basis, and the can be reopened if more information about them becomes available later.
Maharashtra ACB’s Director-General Param Bir Singh said that ACB had recommended the closure of 9 cases against Ajit Pawar almost 3 months ago, as there was no role of Pawar in these cases. But the ACB is still investigating more the 3000 cases in the irrigation scam, and Ajit Pawar has not got any clean chit in those ongoing cases. They said that the closed cases were routine cases, and the ongoing cases will continue as they were earlier, despite Ajit Pawar becoming the deputy CM of the state.
Update: A press note issued by the Maharashtra ACB said that they are investigating a total of 2654 tenders of 45 projects of Vidarbh Irrigation Development Corporation, and so far open enquiry has been completed in 212 tenders. From these, FIRs have been registered in 24 cases and charge sheet filed in 5 cases. On the other hand, open enquiry into 45 cases has been closed as no offence was found during the probe. the ACB said that the order dated 25 November 2019 closing the 9 cases belong to those 45 cases, and the recommendation to close them were received 2-5 months ago from respecting ACB units.
They said that no criminal offence was found in those 9 cases. The ACB note also specifically mentioned that none of these 9 cases is linked to Ajit Pawar.