Ajit Pawar returns amid controversy

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 07:31 hrs

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar was re-inducted into the Maharashtra cabinet as deputy chief minister on Friday, prompting the Opposition parties to slam the move and calling a White Paper on the irrigation scam that led to his stepping down as an eyewash.

A White Paper paper by the state government´s irrigation department cleared him in the Rs. 70,000-crore irrigation scam.

Pawar had resigned from the post of the state´s deputy chief minister over the irrigation scam worth thousands of crores of rupees.

He was accused of arbitrarily giving away irrigation contracts worth more than Rs 20,000 crore as irrigation minister between 1999 and 2009.

Governor K Sankaranarayanan administered oath of office to Pawar in the presence of the Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan while the BJP and the Shiv Sena boycotted the swearing-in ceremony.

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the White Paper is not a probe and dismissed it as an eyewash.

"White paper is no probe, a probe can be by CBI or such bodies," said Prakash Javadekar.

"This is not a white paper, this is black paper, this is no paper.

Shiv Sena was also caustic in its attack. Sena leader Sanjay Raut said: "Who gave the clean chit and who brought out the white paper?"

Pawar, however, said the White Paper was prepared when he was not in government and so he cannot influence the investigation.

He said any PIL filed against him cannot mean that he would stay out of power till it was disposed of.

"That way no chief minister or even the Prime Minister can function," he said.

BJP said with the re-induction of Pawar it was proved that even the government led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, which bragged of a clean image, is not clean.

On Sept 29, Chavan had accepted Pawar´s resignation from the post of deputy chief minister, days after the latter stepped down.

NCP chief and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had demanded a while paper on irrigation in the state following the resignation of Ajit, his nephew.

On Nov 29, a report by the Maharashtra irrigation department that exonerated the former deputy chief minister of his alleged role in an irrigation scam was tabled in the state cabinet.

The document was presented by irrigation minister Sunil Tatkare of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) at a two-hour-long meeting of the cabinet.

The Opposition BJP had rejected the report outright, calling it a "whitewash" and "anticipatory bail" for Pawar.

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