New Delhi, Oct 4: In a revelation that could greatly embarrass his party, BJP President Nitin Gadkari has written a letter to the Union Water Ministry, asking for funds to be released to contractors in a mega dam project in Maharashtra.
The Gosikhurd irrigation dam project in Vidarbha has been the centrepiece of the BJP’s attack against the state government, which the party says is guilty of a massive irrigation scam. It was started in 1983 at a cost of 461 crores , but more than 2 decades later, the project is still incomplete, marred by controversy, and the costs have escalated to an estimated 18,000 crore rupees.
Several committees have found fault with the quality of works on the dam, including the Vadnere Committee report which pointed to lapses by the contractors which have been ignored by the officials and the Central Water Commission which said wherever the quality is not up to the mark, work needs to be redone.
These complaints are the reason why payments have been stopped by the Centre to the project.
But in his letter to Union Water Resources Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal, dated July 30 2012, Mr Gadkari, in a direct opposite stance to his party, defends the state government delays, saying "The Chairman CWC New Delhi too inspected the works mentioned in the complaints freshly made, carried no base."
Mr Gadkari claims he is acting in these interests of Vidarbha region, which will benefit from water from the project.
But is Mr Gadkari interested in Vidarbha, or unpaid private contractors?
In his letter, he urges the Centre to release Rs. 400 crores to the contractors of the project saying "Due to non-payment of their 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."
The prominent contractors of the project are BJP RS MP Ajay Sancheti, whose company SMS Infrastructure has got crores of rupees of contracts for the project. Mr Gadkari has in the past denied business links to Mr Sancheti, threatening to file a lawsuit against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh for alleging the same.
Another contractor with BJP links on the project is Mitesh Bhangdia, whose companies M.G Bhangdia and Mahendra Construction have also got contracts for the dam.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar defended his party president’s actions and said, "The irrigation project in Vidharbha is of national importance, specially when farmers committing suicide. People write to the government because the project was funded nationally. Everyone writes for projects to be completed earlier." He added"... the BJP has raised voice against irrigation scam of NCP, Congress in state projects, not national projects."