In a separate development in political crisis-ridden Maharashtra, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Monday gave clean-chit to at least nine cases of 10-year-old irrigation scam cases allegedly involving Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

It is reported that these cases allegedly involve recently sworn-in Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar. However it is still not clear if Ajit Pawar was directly named in these cases or not.

According to a notification issued by the ACB, Mumbai, the nine cases that got ACB’s clean chit pertain to big and small irrigation projects in Washim, Yavatmal, Amravati and Buldhana under the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) for the Vidarbha region.

These cases among others, collectively known as the infamous Rs 70,000 crore ‘Irrigation Scam’ dated 10 years back, created a major political furore in the politics of Maharashtra.

It is to be noted that Ajit Pawar was heading the Water Resource Ministry as well apart from being the Deputy Chief Minister in the Congress-NCP government in the state.

However, the Director-General, ACB, Parambir Singh maintained that “none of these cases closed today pertain to DCM Ajit Pawar”.

At that time when the corruption in the irrigation department surfaced, opposition parties majorly Shiv Sena and BJP raised questions against the Shivraj Chavan-led Congress government.

In 2014 election campaign too, Devendra Fadnavis raised the issue and assured to put allegedly involved Ajit Pawar behind the bars once voted in power.

The ACB is investigating around 3,000 complaints related to tenders in irrigation projects, in which two dozen FIRs have been registered and are being investigated as before, and the files closed on Monday are only nine routine cases, ACB officials said.

ACB official maintained that the Monday’s closures on the case are conditional and the files could be reopened if more information comes to light during investigations or on a court order.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has taken strong objections to the sudden closure of these alleged scam cases with a threat to launch an agitation and also counter it legally.

“In these nine cases alone pertaining to the VIDC matters, there are very serious allegations of misuse or siphoning off of over Rs 9,000 crore. After so many years, how can they be abruptly closed?” VJAS President Kishore Tiwari told IANS.

He said that the manner in which it has come two days after the new government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was sworn-in, itself makes the ACB’s move “very suspicious” and would be challenged at all levels.

On Saturday morning, Maharashtra politics witnessed a very dramatic turn with NCP leader Ajit Pawar swearing-in as Deputy Chief Minister with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister. On Friday evening, the NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena alliance was looking to be a reality after a series of meetings. But the Saturday’s event changed the course of Maharashtra government formation- a battle that is underway since the declaration of results on October 24.

(With inputs from IANS)