Irrigation scam: Gadkari defends himself
With his letter to the Centre over a Maharashtra irrigation project sparking political row, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said he wrote it for helping farmers.
"I wrote the letter. I did it to help farmers, to stop them from committing suicide. If I had not done it, then people would have asked 'What is Gadkari doing?'" Gadkari was quoted as saying by CNN-IBN.
Putting up a defrence, he said many Congress leaders too have written to the Centre for funds.
"Why am I being singled out when Congress leaders like Prithviraj Chavan, Mukul Wasnik and others also wrote asking for payments?" he asked.
"Irrigation should be given priority. Water, land and forests are very important. Farmers of my region are committing suicide. Therefore I wrote the letter," he said.
The multi-crore Maharashtra irrigation scam took another turn on Thursday around a letter written by Gadkari to Union water resources ministry seeking release of funds for the Gosikhurd project in Vidarbha region of the state.
Pertinently, an associate of Gadkari is believed to be a contractor in the irrigation project in Maharashtra.
Gadkari on July 30 wrote a letter to Union Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and asked to clear Rs 400 crores to the contractors, who were involved in the project.
However, no names were mentioned in it.
"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 Rs400 crore is pending," read the letter.
Defending the matter, Gadkari told reporters: "I wrote a letter to Bansal and will write ten more."
"It was done in the interest of the farmers of Maharashtra in order to prevent farmer suicides in Vidarbha,"he said.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh attacked Gadkari and said it was clear that the BJP president was more interested in ensuring the contractors get the money they do not deserve.
He said Gadkari was more a 'businessman' than a 'politician'.
A social activist last month claimed that Gadkari tried to suppress the irrigation scam in Maharashtra.
India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Anjali Damania said she had met Gadkari and asked him to take up the issue against the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Damania was one of the whistleblowers who had brought the scam to the limelight.
She said Gadari told her that he will not be able to do that as he shares close relationship with NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minster Ajit Pawar on Sept 25 resigned from the state government over the scam.