The ruling Congress party and its co-partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are currently engaged in verbal duel over the actual rise in the irrigation potential during 1999-2000 and 2009-10. Congress has simply dumped the NCP's claim of 5.17 per cent rise and supported the Economic Survey's observation of a paltry 0.1 per cent increase. Further, a section of Congress party is making strong pitch for a judicial probe into the alleged multi crore irrigation scam while it has been opposed by NCP which is not averse to an inquiry by an expert committee. In view of the ongoing spat, the NCP may boycott a meeting of Democratic Alliance government slated on Monday in Nagpur.
The differences between two pareties were surfaced on Friday when the Maharashtra's agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil openly challenged NCP's claim as made in its own publications and also in the white paper prepared by the water resources department. Vikhe-Patil thereby also snubbed NCP leader and home minister RR Patil who had said 0.1 per cent addition as observed in the Economic Survey was a printing mistake. The minister questioned how the well irrigation can be included in the irrigation potential projected by the water resources department.
Vikhe-Patil's statement came at a time when a section of Congress party leaked an undated letter written by the agriculture secretary SK Goyal to the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan saying that the irrigation potential rose to 17.9 per cent in 2009-10 compared to 17.8 per cent in 2000-01.
The agriculture minister has indicated that neither his ministry nor Congress party were buying NCP's argument and they were also not supporting NCP's view point that there were no irregularities in the implementation of irrigation projects during 1999-2000 and 2009-10 when NCP leader Ajit Pawar was the water resources minister. However, NCP's state party president Madhukar Pichad told Business Standard that his party has proved project wise expenses incurred during the implementation of various projects to increase the irrigation potential by 5.17 per cent.
Vikhe-Patil, who is a known baiter of union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his nephew and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, took yet another opportunity to further embarass NCP on the irrigation scam issue. On the other hand, the opposition is quite adamant on its demand for the establishment of special investigation team (SIT) to inquire into the irrigation scam.
A senior Congress minister, who did not want to be identified, recalled that the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had approved the presentation of white paper on irrigation sector to be made by water resources minister in the state cabinet at its meeting held on November 29. "Chief Minister had never given its go ahead for the clearance to the white paper without any discussion in the cabinet. CM and the Congress party in general do not want to be party to NCP's misdeeds. There are five petitions pending for admission and justice in different courts on irrigation scam and it will not be proper for the Congress party to openly support NCP." the minister noted.
Meanwhile Eknath Khadse, leader of opposition in the state assembly said the opposition would rake up the issue on Monday after a two day holiday for the winter session.