Mumbai: Two days after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar resigned as Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister over allegations of corruption, it now emerges that the Bharatiya Janata Party may have benefitted from the scam.
CNN-IBN has accessed letters that show that BJP President Nitin Gadkari's aide Ajay Sancheti got licences against the rules. Ajit Pawar as the President of the Vidharbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) had issued a circular allowing more than three contracts per contractor. The move benefitted Ajay Sancheti who is also a BJP MP.
The name of Sancheti's company was changed to SMS Infrastructure in 2005. Breaking company registrar's rules, Sancheti sought and got licences for both of his companies from VIDC in 2007.
He then went on to form a Joint Venture with D&SN Thakkars and secured contracts worth Rs 156 crore.
However, Sancheti has denied any wrongdoing. He told CNN-IBN, "All these are baseless allegations. This is nothing but an attempt to malign Nitin Gadkari. I didn't break any law. The company's name was changed as per established guidelines. I was only getting payments for a while in my earlier companies name as state permissions for company name changes take a while."
The irrigation scam has left the Maharashtra government in crisis as Ajit Pawar resigned as the Deputy Chief Minister on Tuesday. His supporters in the party on Wednesday came out to protest outside the state Assembly building, blaming Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for the crisis.
The Congress, however, made it clear that Chavan would stay as the Chief Minister, even as NCP chief Sharad Pawar said his party would support them.
Meanwhile, in the first direct attack on Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the NCP accused him of using the white paper on irrigation to target them.
"When the irrigation minister has already made his presentation, then why has the white paper not been tabled? Why the delay? (Is it) to keep the clouds of suspicion hanging?" said senior NCP leader Jitendra Awhad.
The NCP maintained that it was not on them, but up to the Congress to decide on the whether there would be a leadership change in Maharashtra.
"Whether to recall Prithviraj Chavan to Delhi or change the Chief Minister is up to the Congress," said Sharad Pawar.
Amidst the crisis and protests, Prithviraj Chavan will meet the Congress legislators on Thursday to discuss the current political situation.