Mumbai: Maharashtra’s Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde was in trouble today following allegations that she cleared purchases worth Rs 206 crore through 24 Government Resolutions on a single day instead of inviting tenders.
The alleged purchases relate to a host of items including snacks and books for children in institutions across the state.
Dubbing it as a “big scam”, Congress and other opposition parties attacked the 8-month-old BJP-led government headed by Devendra Fadnavis.
Former chief minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan demanded a CBI inquiry and said the scam exposed the “true colours” of the government.
Asked if he would demand Munde’s resignation, Chavan said “Be it Pankaja Munde or Vinod Tawade (education minister caught in a row over educational qualification), this government would not remove anyone. After all, this the policy of the Modi government to brazen out all allegations.”
“The scam has exposed the real character of this government. The Minister (Munde) must give an explanation on the issue”, Chavan said.
The scam first came to light on June 15, when the office of Pankaja Munde received a letter from Ahmednagar Zila Parishad president Manjushree Gund complaining about the quality of chikki (a popular snack) distributed to tribal students under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Gund said the chikki was contaminated with clay.
This is the first time that an alleged scam of this magnitude has come to light after the BJP-Shiv Sena government took office.
All purchases were cleared by Munde, daughter of BJP stalwart late Gopinath Munde on a single day on February 13 through 24 Government Resolutions (GR).
As per norms, all government purchases above Rs 3 lakh have to be done through e-tendering. Fadnavis has banned purchases through the rate contract system, in which material is purchased after rates have been negotiated.
Pankaja Munde was unavailable for comments. An official in her department said the minister was out of India and was expected to return on June 28.
Munde said her decision to check corruption had “troubled” some “money-minded” people and that she was not scared of such accusations.
For years the women and child development department had been neglected and was taken “less seriously”, she said, adding that “I as a minister (have) taken some dynamic decision to reduce currption…has also troubled some money minded bunch of ppl (sic) involved…I hv not broken any rules as far I m concerned n also not feared any allegations”.
Senior BJP leader and Maharashtra Minister Eknath Khadse, while responding to the allegations, said,”Opposition keeps on levelling charges. We don’t take them seriously until they submit proof.”
BJP spokesperson Shaina NC said the opposition had levelled allegations “to be in news”. “The opposition wants to be in news. If Munde has done anything, it should be substantiated with proof.”
Accusing BJP and the Centre of double-speak, Congress’ media department chief Randeep Surjewala said,”We hope that BJP and its government will seriously investigate the way they used to say ‘na khayenge, na khane denge’ and will provide a corruption-free government.
“We hope that they will, before 1.25 crore people of India, prove that they do what they say,” he said, adding “as layers and layers of corruption get unveiled, one leader after another of BJP is getting exposed. First it was the External Affairs Minister helping a fugitive of law and a black money hoarder, we also saw forged degrees of Irani and now….Pankaja Munde.”