MUMBAI: Maharashtra’s Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has strongly come out in defence of fellow ministerial colleagues Pankaja Munde (state rural development minister) and Vinod Tawade (state education minister), saying both were being unfairly and unnecessarily criticized by the opposition as well as key ally, the Shiv Sena.
Participating in ETV's popular "The J C Show" in Mumbai, Mungantiwar told Head, ETV News, Jagdish Chandra, “It is a deliberate attempt to create controversy in the cases of Education Minister Vinod Tawade and Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde.”
Mungantiwar was referring to the controversies surrounding Pankaja Munde being accused of siphoning off Rs. 206 crores with the help of her associates and supporters, a charge that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has also rejected.
Munde was accused by the Congress of being involved in a "scam" to clear purchases worth Rs.206 crores on a single day instead of inviting tenders in violation of the norms.
The purchases related to host of items, including snacks, mats, dishes and books for children under the Integrated Child Development Services by the Women and Child Development Ministry which Munde then headed.
Munde has been emphatic in denying any wrongdoing, and Chief Minister Fadnavis had said that, "Prima facie there appears to be no wrong-doing. If needed, we will probe the issue. Pankaja called me and she said she had not committed any irregularity and is ready to face any inquriy."
The Congress, on the other hand, has called for an inquiry either by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the ACB, and repeatedly demanded Munde’s resignation.
Munde, daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, had then claimed that she had not broken any rules, but had taken some "dynamic decisions to reduce corruption."
She said that she was in the state government to do the best she could for those kids and women that needed help and would continue to do so. She said that her she was confident about her decisions and intentions.
Munde recently courted another controversy when she clicked a selfie of herself in drought-hit and parched Latur District of Maharashtra after a train had brought several million liters of water to provide relief to the people of the area.
She drew considerable political and social media flak from all quarters for clicking the selfies.
Key ally, the Shiv Sena, criticised Maharashtra’s Rural Development and Water Conservation Minister, saying, that ministers should watch their actions before doing such things.
“Maharashtra is facing severe drought in the state. Women and even kids are going far away for getting water. Even the Shiv Sena is also doing lot of work in those drought-hit areas. And in such a serious situation, the ministers are clicking selfies,” Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande had told ANI then.
“It is unfortunate that a minister went and clicked selfies in drought-hit Latur. I think they should watch their actions before doing such things. I think that Pankaja Munde should have avoided this,” Manisha added then.
On her part, Munde had clarified that she clicked those pictures to appreciate the work done by the local administration in this hour of crisis. Taking to micro blogging site Twitter, she said, “This pics are work done by govt n ppl participation it's my dept n I was working from day 1sence of satisfaction if it rains we are ready.”
She said that she had posted a series of selfies on Twitter while reviewing the efforts on water conservation in drought-hit Latur. Her selfies with the hapless farmers had gone viral on the social media for which she is also trolled by the users.
As per government's norms, any purchase above Rs 3 lakh has to be done through e-tendering.
Mungantiwar told Mr.Chandra that the case against Vinod Tawade, Maharashtra’s Education Minister, in connection with an alleged row over educational qualifications, seemed a brazen attempt on the part of the opposition, most notably the Congress, to maintain pressure on Chief Minister Fadnavis and his state government without any semblance of proof.
Maharashtra’s Medical Education Minister Vinod Tawde courted controversy when opted to move away from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), which is based on the CBSE syllabus, and instead continue with MH-CET for another year on the grounds that the state government would have to upgrade its HSC syllabus first to allow Maharashtra to join NEET from 2017.
The Maharashtra Government had made the request to the Indian Medical Council (IMC) not to conduct the admissions to medical and dental courses through NEET.
The Supreme Court had on April 11 recalled its controversial judgment of scrapping the single common entrance test for admission to MBBS, BDS and PG courses in all medical colleges and restored the NEET.
Mungantiwar told ETV’s Mr. Chandra that, “Nothing is to be proved here. Here, the controversy is of coal, 2G, while Vinod and Pankaja are only targeted. Nothing has been proved and no one has gone to court, nor has any proof been submitted over the allegations on these ministers. All this is a deliberate attempt. Mountain is being made of a molehill.”
As regards, the BJP’s relationship with the Shiv Sena, Mungantiwar said, “We have good relations with Shiv Sena. Some ideological differences are there, which we will resolve also. We are tied since 25 years and still united.”