BJP President Nitin Gadkari on Thursday found himself at the centre of yet another controversy over a letter he wrote to Union Water Resources Ministry seeking release of funds for an irrigation project in Maharashtra, in which an associate of his is said to be a contractor.
The Gosikhurd project is embroiled in an alleged scam involving NCP leader Ajit Pawar who quit recently in the wake of charges of corruption on which the BJP had mounted a big campaign.
Gadkari wrote to Union Water Resources Minister P K Bansal on July 30 this year asking him to clear the dues of the contractors involved in the project though no names were mentioned.
"Due to non-payment of the dues, the contractors stop their works. This may delay the programme and would also result in time overrun and delays in creation of irrigation potential. Presently liability of Rs 400 crore is pending," the letter said
The BJP chief's detractors claimed it was aimed at benefiting his associate Ajay Sancheti.
The BJP and Gadkari himself today defended his action, saying he had asked the Centre to release funds for the Gosikhurd project to help the farmers and not for the benefit of any contractor close to him.
"I wrote a letter to Bansal and will write ten more.... It was done in the interest of the farmers of Maharashtra, to prevent farmer suicides in Vidarbha," Gandkari told reporters in Mumbai.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javedekar, who, incidentally, is reported to have written a letter similar to the one sent by Gadkari, said that "it is clear that no contractor's name is mentioned in the letter.
"The issue is that a Central government project is pending and it should be completed," Javadekar said in Delhi.
But Congress leader Digvijay Singh, against whom Gadkari had issued a legal notice over allegations related to coal scam, was quick to latch on the issue and describe the BJP chief as "more of a businessman than a politician."
"It is clear that he (Gadkari) was interested in contractors getting their money which they don't deserve," he alleged.