Amid the high-voltage political drama in Maharashtra, the Anti-Corruption Bureau on Monday said it has closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects in the state, but clarified none of them was linked to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
The ACB's clarification came after the Congress claimed Ajit Pawar was "exonerated" in lieu of his support to the Bharatiya Janata Party in forming a government two days ago.
As a minister in the erstwhile Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government, Ajit Pawar had handled water resources among a host of other key portfolios. The cases related to a time when the NCP and the Congress were in power in Maharashtra.
"None of the cases pertaining to Ajit Pawar in the 2013 irrigation scam investigation has been closed," a senior ACB official.
This is a conditional closure, which means the state or the court can reopen the case, the official said.
"We are investigating around 3,000 tenders in irrigation-related complaints. These are routine inquiries which are closed and all ongoing investigations are continuing as they were earlier," he clarified.
Hitting out at the BJP-Ajit Pawar government, the Congress alleged that the only decision it had taken in "public interest" was to close "all cases of corruption and malfeasance".
On November 23, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis took oath as chief minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy amid political
turmoil in the state.
In an official statement issued on Monday evening, the ACB made it clear none of the nine enquiries was related to Ajit Pawar, a former chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.
Ajay Aphale, additional superintendent of police (HQ), ACB, issued the statement to clear the confusion over whether Ajit Pawar's name figured in the conditional closure report of the nine cases.
"The ACB is enquiring into a total of 2,654 tenders of 45 projects of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation as per the two PILs filed in year 2012 before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court," the police officer said.
"So far, open enquiry has been completed in 212 tenders. Out of it, FIRs have been registered in 24 cases and chargesheets have been filed in five cases," he said.
"Open enquiry into 45 tenders have been closed as no offence was disclosed during enquiry. This order of conditional closure of nine enquiries dated today is from the above 45 enquiries closed and these were received from ACB units for closure in this office between 2-5 months ago," Aphale said.
Departmental enquiries against officials concerned have been recommended in 28 cases for administrative lapses, he added.
"None of these nine enquiries is in respect of Ajit Pawar, the then chairman of VIDC," Aphale said in the statement.
All 24 FIRs are presently under investigation and none of these has been closed, said the police official.
"Open enquiries into various projects or tenders of VIDC are under progress. The next date of hearing of the PILs is scheduled on Thursday," Aphale said.
The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, relates to alleged corruption and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-NCP rule.
These projects were undertaken by Vidharba and Konkan Irrigation Development Corporations.
Ajit Pawar was among the NCP ministers who were in-charge of the irrigation department at different times between 1999 and 2014 during the Congress-NCP coalition rule.
In the past, the NCP had denied Ajit Pawar's involvement in the alleged scam.