BHOPAL: In a major development, two former personal secretaries to ex-Madhya Pradesh water resources Narottam Mishra were arrested by the state’s Economic Offence Wing (EOW) in the Rs 80,000 crore alleged e-tendering scam on Friday evening.
The two former secretaries of the ex-minister and senior BJP leader Mishra have been identified as Virendra Pandey and Nirmal Awasthi – both state government officers who had been on deputation to Mishra’s office (while he was a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government).
The development assumes significance, as it happened two days after Mishra, the BJP MLA from Datia seat of Datia district, had indicated tit-for-tat move against Kamal Nath-led Congress government over two BJP MLAs having voted along with Congress MLAs in support of an amendment bill in the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday evening.
“The game has been started by the Congress, but will be ended by us,” Mishra had told journalists in Bhopal on Wednesday night, indicating a tit-for-tat move against the Congress government.
In the past, Congress leaders, including ex-CM Digvijaya Singh have accused senior BJP leaders, including Mishra of trying to topple Kamal Nath government by making lucrative offers to Congress and allied MLAs.
The two arrests made by the EOW on Friday takes the number of persons arrested so far in the high-profile case to eight. While Awasthi was questioned for the last two days in the case, Pandey was not coming to EOW HQ for questioning despite summons.
The arrests pertained to the tampering of an e-tender floated by the Water Resources Department in 2018. The department had floated a Rs 116 crore tender for a project that a Gujarat-based firm Sorathia Velji Ratna & Company bagged for Rs 113 crore, and when the letter of acceptance was given, the amount was reduced to Rs 105 crore, key official sources in the EOW HQ in Bhopal told The New Indian Express.
Importantly, the EOW had on April 10, registered an FIR into the alleged e-tendering scam, which happened between January 2018 and March 2018, when the state was ruled by Shivraj Singh Chouhan led BJP government.
On April 10, the first FIR into the scam was registered under various sections of IPC as well as sections of the Information and Technology Act, besides provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act against unidentified directors and marketing heads of Hyderabad, Baroda, Mumbai and Bhopal headquartered companies, besides a Bhopal based company which was tasked with developing e-processes (digital signature certificates for opening the bids/tenders).
The unidentified accused in the FIR also included officials and staff of five state government departments, besides unknown bureaucrats and politicians who would have played key role in the alleged fraud between January 2018 and March 2018.
The first FIR in the alleged scam was registered in April 2019, nearly 11 months after the EOW registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) into the matter in May 2018.
For making the tendering process of various departments of MP government online, the MP State Electronics Development Corporation (MPSEDC) had developed MP e-tendering portal. In this portal, all departments uploaded their tender notices in response to which different companies submitted their bids.
In March 2018, it came to the fore that price bids of nine tenders of five state government departments were tampered to help some companies to revise their price bids for getting the contracts for which tenders were floated by the concerned departments.
The nine tenders, included three tenders of Jal Nigam, two tenders of Public Works Department, one of Project Implementation Unit (PIU), two of Water Resources Department and one of MP Road Development Corporation.