In the run-up to the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had accused the ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of a Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam. The campaign, which catapulted BJP to power, now seems to be turning against it. NCP says that under the pretext of project escalation cost, BJP has skimmed off Rs 40,000 crore through revised administrative approvals for 307 irrigation projects across the state.The NCP spokesperson has accused the BJP Irrigation minister of the scam in his three-year tenure.”Going by BJP’s yardstick,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Mallik, “their Irrigation minister Girish Mahajan, has executed a Rs 40,000 crore irrigation scam in his three-year tenure.””Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, as an Opposition leader, was at the forefront when allegations were made against us. He should now answer our allegations, which are supported by facts.”Malik said that most of the projects – that were revised and the costs were escalated – have been awarded to BJP members and well-wishers. “Some of the contractors are BJP MLAs, ministers and even MPs in the Rajya Sabha. We want in-depth inquiry,” Malik demanded.Giving an example of how project costs have been escalated by BJP, Malik cited the Gosikhurd irrigation project in Vidarbha. “In 2005-06, the estimated project cost was Rs 5,659 crore,” said Malik. “After coming into power, BJP additionally approved Rs 12,835 crore, taking the total cost of the project to Rs 18,494 crore. Additionally, it sought Rs 12,000 crore more from the Centre, which was denied. We want to understand, where exactly the BJP government plans to spend the money.”According to Nawab, the escalated costs of all irrigation projects amounts to Rs 40,000 crore. “We will raise this issue in the upcoming Assembly sessions,” said Malik, “If the government doesn’t heed us, we will take the fight to the people.”When contacted, Mahajan, was not available for comment. However, a government notification dated September 2016 mentions that the state government knew that the cost of the project had been raised but it decided to approve it in the interest of east Vidarbha’s development.
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