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On a 'chikki' wicket, Pankaja says not a single rupee swindled

Source: PTI
Last updated on: July 01, 2015 18:35 IST
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Facing fresh allegation of flouting rules in awarding contract to build a dam besides the Rs 206 'purchase' scam, Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde rubbished the charges as mere ‘scam of words’ and said she will step down if found guilty of any charge.

Munde, who was away in London last week when the opposition Congress accused her of brazen violation of norms in awarding contracts for purchase of 'chikki' and a host of other items for anganwadis, said there was a "politically motivated" move by the opposition to target her when she was not "physically available to defend herself."

"All the allegations leveled against me by the opposition are nothing but political in nature, which were purposely brought out when I could not be physically present to put forth my explanation.

"It seems that people (opposition) want to somehow prove that there is a scam brewing when there is nothing like this happening in the government," Munde, daughter of late Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart Gopinath Munde, said at her first press meet after returning home.

"The day it is proved that I am guilty of any wrongdoing, I would not consider myself worth holding any government position, let alone the charge of this very important department," she said.

Munde, who is also in charge of Water Conservation, refuted the allegation of flouting norms in awarding a contract to build a dam in Jalna district to a private company headed by Ratnakar Gutte, a functionary of Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, an ally of the BJP-led alliance and a close associate of the Munde family.

"There have been pictures of me with Ratnakar Gutte floating the media. These pictures do not mean anything. He (Gutte) has only joined the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh a few months back and we had met at some function where the picture was taken. But this does not mean I have in any way favoured this person.

"We have given all the rights of approvals to district collectors and I have not interfered in any of their decisions," Munde said. She also displayed several pictures of Gutte with other Nationalist Congress Party leaders.

In a point-by-point rebuttal of allegations against her, Munde said no new contractor was brought in the system and that the previous Congress-NCP government had made purchases of a much bigger amount through the rate contract system.

"Today they (the Congress and the NCP) are alleging that since purchases have been done through a rate contract system, this is a scam of Rs 206 crore. But, between 2010-2015, purchases worth Rs 408 crore were done through the same rate contract system. When they do it, it is purchasing and when we do it, it becomes a scam.

"My only feeling was that the grants of the Centre to this department (Women and Child Development) should not lapse and putting the children to suffer due to lack of nutritious food," she said.

When pointed out that no top BJP leader was present to "support" her during her briefing unlike when Education minister Vinod Tawde's held a press meet on Tuesday, Munde said no less a person than Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had come out in her support and she enjoyed the complete backing of her party.

However, Housing Minister Prakash Mehta joined her when the press meet was halfway through. "I had spoken to (senior party leaders) Sudhir Mungantiwar and Chandrakant Patil before calling this press meet. They were busy with other engagements and and I did not want to upset their schedule. So, I decided to go ahead with the press conference without them. But I have the support of my party and crores of people," she said.

RSP leader Mahadev Jankar, and Pankaja's sister and BJP Member of Parliament Preetam Munde were also present at the venue. Munde said that she and her department are ready for any probe and that her department will also co-operate with the ACB, which has sought details of the purchases.

In a point-by-point rebuttal of allegations against her, Munde said no new contractor was brought in the system and that the previous Congress-NCP government had made purchases of a much bigger amount through the rate contract system.

"Today they (the Congress and the NCP) are alleging that since purchases have been done through a rate contract system, this is a scam of Rs 206 crore. But, between 2010-2015, purchases worth Rs 408 crore were done through the same rate contract system. When they do it, it is purchasing and when we do it, it becomes a scam.

"My only feeling was that the grants of the Centre to this department (Women and Child Development) should not lapse and putting the children to suffer due to lack of nutritious food," she said.

When pointed out that no top BJP leader was present to "support" her during her briefing unlike when Education minister Vinod Tawde's held a press meet on Tuesday, Munde said no less a person than Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had come out in her support and she enjoyed the complete backing of her party.

However, Housing Minister Prakash Mehta joined her when the press meet was halfway through.

"I had spoken to (senior party leaders) Sudhir Mungantiwar and Chandrakant Patil before calling this press meet. They were busy with other engagements and and I did  not want to upset their schedule. So, I decided to go ahead with the press conference without them. But I have the support of my party and crores of people," she said.

Rashtriya Samaj Paksh leader Mahadev Jankar, and Pankaja's sister and BJP MP Preetam Munde were also present at the venue.

Munde said that she and her department are ready for any probe and that her department will also co-operate with the ACB, which has sought details of the purchases.

Image: Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde

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