There’s no love lost between CM Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar. According to NCP leaders, Chavan has once again started targeting Pawar in connection with the Rs70,000 crore irrigation scam which had resulted in the deputy CM resigning from his post last year.
“No one will be spared. They will go to jail like the Delhi leader (Lalu Prasad Yadav who was sentenced to five years),” Chavan told reporters on Wednesday. Though he did not name Pawar, his comment that police action will be initiated even if a senior politician is found guilty by the Chitale committee has created a flutter in political circles.
Chavan, however, refused to comment on the missing inquiry report of the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC).
In 1998, the Pune anti-corruption bureau had submitted its confidential report on financial irregularities in the 32 irrigation projects undertaken under the MKVDC. Pawar was irrigation minister then and was also heading the MKVDC.
The deputy CM was surprised at the timing of the CM’s remarks.
“Since 1999, there were almost three governments which assumed power in the state, but no one raised the issue. Why now?” he questioned. “The inquiry report of the MKVDC is not missing. The concerned officials have told me that the report is very much there. The timing of raising the issue is odd. I will meet the CM and ask him about it.”
NCP leaders though are convinced that Chavan wants to run down the party before the elections next year. “He wants to malign the NCP before the Lok Sabha and state elections so that we demand less seats. However, this time we won’t tolerate this. The CM should not underestimate our strength. He is trying to cut the branch of a tree on which he’s sitting,” said a senior NCP leader on condition of anonymity.
Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson, told dna such pressure tactics are uncalled for and that the CM should follow coalition dharma.
“We are an important ally of the government in the state and at the Centre. We are not his enemy and are not opposed to him either.
Yet, he wants to marginalise us. It is not a sign of good politics.
There were several allegations against our leaders, but not one has been proved right. We have faith in the people. They will show who is the real leader,” he said.
Another NCP stalwart wondered why Chavan did not clear the air over the missing inquiry reports like Pawar did on Thursday. He said the CM knows that the MKVDC inquiry report is not missing, but refused to answer specific questions on it. “This is to create confusion and ensure that Pawar remains a suspect. It is dirty politics,” he said.
Political observers point out that that Chavan - initially called the ‘Delhi guy’ - has learnt state politics fast and knows how to badly hurt the NCP. The NCP has been traditionally strong in the co-operative and irrigation sectors and the CM has deliberately attacked these. This will further boost his clean image which he can encash during the election.