Ashok Chavan made these comments against Pankaja Munde without naming her.
The Congress continued to attack Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde for alleged irregularities in awarding contracts worth Rs 206 crores. Congress will rake up the Chikki scam issue in the monsoon session of the state assembly to gain an upper hand over the ruling party. Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has demanded Pankaja Munde’s resignation. He has threatened to disrupt the monsoon session of the state assembly if Pankaja fails to step down.
Maharashtra Congress Chief Ashok Chavan took a jibe at Pankaja Munde while speaking at Ambekar Memorial Auditorium, Lonavala and said, “This cheeky has become more popular than the Lonavala chikki. If things continue to remain in this manner then I think that state might head for mid-term election.”
Mumbai Regional Congress Committee President, Sanjay Nirupam also demanded that Pankaja Munde should resign until she is cleared of all charges. He criticised Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s decision to give clean chit to Pankaja on the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and said that she might have received a kickback.
MPCC spokesperson Sachin Sawant, had forwarded a letter to Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary of WCWD ministry, seeking details in the purchase of items such as chikki, mats, dishes and books for tribal students under the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) programme. In a complaint filed with the ACB, the MPCC has alleged that purchases worth Rs206 crore were made by the WCWD department without inviting e-tenders as per the guidelines prescribed by the general administrative department. As per GAD norms, it is mandatory to invite e-tender for any purchase of over Rs10 lakh.
The MPCC further alleged that Munde reportedly issued 24 government resolutions in one day to issue purchase orders for all the said materials, a move that has aroused suspicions.
Pankaja’s trouble doesn’t seem to end here. She has landed in fresh trouble as allegations emerged that she may have interfered with the government’s tendering process for two contracts for water conservation projects in Parbhani district.
The contracts were eventually awarded to a bidder who was originally disqualified on technical grounds, allegedly after Munde’s office stepped in.
The allegations pertain to two contracts in Parbhani for works under the state government’s flagship initiative, the Jalyukt Shivar Yojana, meant for drought-proofing villages. The contracts, collectively worth nearly Rs 1.40 crore, were awarded to Sunil Hitech, a company presided over by Munde aide and BJP politician Ratnakar Gutte.
Documents including tender documents, a letter from the water conservation department’s deputy secretary and notings by Munde’s private secretary on another official communication show that while Gutte’s firm emerged as the lowest bidder, his company was disqualified during scrutiny of the bids. The reason cited was that a clause requiring bidders to digitally sign all pages of the bid documents had not been complied with.
On the other hand, Pankaja Munde said that the all allegations made against her are baseless and she will fight back. She also termed the charges made against her as a “scam of words” and said that commodities were procured at higher price during the Congress-NCP reign.
“The earlier Congress-led regime purchased such items at a cost of Rs 408 crore during its tenure. You call that a purchase and term the procurement made by us a scam,” Munde said.
“It is a scam of words,” Munde, a BJP member in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet, said, adding that “the allegations against me are politically motivated”.
The previous regime had in 2013-14 alone made purchases worth Rs 114 crore, the minister claimed.
“I want every child to fight malnourishment with the support of government and I will ensure that despite of what happens,” she said.
“These are politically motivated charges. I deny all charges against me. There is an intention (on the part of the Opposition) that some scam should be attached to a BJP minister,” she said.