BJP brings fresh graft charges against Congress, NCP

Probe ordered into ‘corruption’ in purchase of food for hospitals by Congress-controlled health department, graft charges against NCP legislator

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Updated: July 16, 2015 12:10 pm
Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, NCP, graft charges, india news, news NCP leader Ajit Pawar protests outside Vidhan Bhavan seeking loan waiver for farmers, in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Source: Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

With graft allegations being levelled against its own ministers, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday mounted a frontal attack on the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) by bringing fresh allegations of corruption that took place under the Congress-NCP regime in Maharashtra.

The party alleged that there had been rampant corruption in contracts allotted for supply of food items in state-run public hospitals under the previous Congress-NCP regime.

Raising a calling attention motion on the issue in the Legislative Assembly, BJP’s Sardar Tara Singh said, “There was a scam to the tune of several crores in these contracts. The state must order a probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in this matter.”

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The matter pertains to contracts originally awarded on June 5, 2009 for supply of food grains and other food items to state-run public hospitals and ESIS hospitals. The health department was with the Congress in the previous government. BJP ally Shiv Sena, which now controls the health department, too joined the BJP in its attack against the Congress.

The matter pertains to contracts originally awarded on June 5, 2009 for supply of food grains and other food items to state-run public hospitals and ESIS hospitals. Tara Singh claimed that the contracts for the supply to hospitals in Mumbai, Thane and Akola were allotted to two contractors — Diksha Samajik Sanstha (Mumbai) and Geetai Women Self Help Group (Amravati) — without any competitive bidding. The said the contracts were first allotted for the period between June 2009 and March 2010, and then extended. While the NCP controlled the health department till October 2009, the Congress took over the portfolio later.

BJP ally Shiv Sena, which now controls the health department, joined the BJP in its attack against the Congress.

Replying to the motion, Public Health Minister Deepak Sawant said, “Prima facie, there appeared to be wrongdoing in the matter. It has come to light that food items, especially groundnut oil, sugar and food grains, were purchased under the contract at rates higher than the market rates.”

He added, “We (the government) have ordered a high-level probe in the matter. A three-member government panel has been asked to submit a report. All those guilty will be acted against. The contractors would be blacklisted if found guilty.”

Prior to the attack against the Congress, charges of corruption were brought against an NCP legislator too earlier in the day. Amid a din in the House, BJP’s Sanjay Kute demanded an ACB probe into alleged financial irregularities, allegedly to the tune of Rs 350 crore, in the Annabhau Sathe Development Corporation, which was headed by NCP’s sitting legislator Ramesh Kadam when the alleged irregularities took place.

Later in the day, the BJP leveraged a proposal of the ruling benches to launch a scathing attack against senior Congress, NCP leaders for the agrarian crisis, rising farmer suicides and the plight of farmers in the state.

With the agrarian crisis deepening, the Opposition has been boycotting proceedings in the state legislature, and has demanded that the government first announce farm loan waiver for relief to drought-hit farmers.

They are blaming the government for the crisis. But this government is only suffering for the sins committed by the Congress-NCP government. The corruption that took place during the previous regime is primarily responsible for the farmers’ plight,” said BJP’s Anil Gote said, while initiating a discussion on the proposal. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is expected to reply to this proposal on Thursday.

Continuing from where they left on Tuesday, the Opposition boycotted proceedings with the government refusing to give in to their demand. In the morning, the assembly was adjourned twice, before the Opposition staged a walkout. Amid slogans raised by Opposition legislators, NCP’s Jayant Patil claimed that the government was insensitive to even housing problems of mill workers.

Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil remained adamant that the Opposition won’t participate in proceedings unless the government declared loan waiver. Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said the government had taken decisions on both the issues. “Do you want to hear them or create a din,” he asked. Khadse’s remarks riled the Opposition further, which raised the slogan, “Kahan Gaye, Kahan Gaye Acche Din (Where are the good days?)”, before staging a walkout. In no mood to relent, the ruling benches, however, continued official business.

Having cleared three legislations in the Lower House on Tuesday, the ruling benches approved two more bills, including one for making more  stringent norms against illegal sand mining and sand mafia, on Wednesday. The Maharashtra Land Revenue Act was modified to increase penalty for such offences from 300 per cent to 500 per cent. The collector and the tehsildar were also delegated power to confiscate machinery used for such illegal mining.

Outside the House, NCP’s Ajit Pawar and Congress’s Vikhe-Patil hit out at the government for running the house in “autocratic” fashion. After staging a mock assembly Tuesday, the Opposition Wednesday used bhajans and kirtans as a mode of protest.

Meanwhile, a gag order disallowing news photographers and cameramen from taking pictures and shots of the Opposition’s demonstration on the stairs of Vidhan Bhavan resulted in a stand-off between the media and the Vidhan Bhavan staff. Protesting against the government’s “undemocratic” functioning, the Opposition later shifted their protest to the media pandal near the entrance.

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