Rs 40,000 crore own goal in BJP camp
Devendra Fadnavis on Monday dismissed BJP parliamentarian Ananthkumar Hegde’s claim that he had been appointed Maharashtra chief minister last month despite lacking a majority only to “protect” Rs 40,000 crore worth of central development funds from being diverted.
“It is absolutely wrong and I refute it completely,” the former BJP chief minister said, adding that the Centre had not sought the return of any funds and nor had the Maharashtra government sent any back.
The Shiv Sena, however, said Fadnavis’s purported act was a “treachery” against Maharashtra while the NCP said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have to resign if Hegde’s claim was true.
Hegde, a former Union minister known for making controversial remarks, had on Saturday claimed that Fadnavis’s dramatic appointment, marked by pre-dawn intrigue, had been carried out to pre-empt a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government misusing pre-released central development funds.
“You all know that our man was chief minister for just 80 hours recently in Maharashtra; but Fadnavis resigned soon. Why did we have to play out this drama? Despite (our) knowing we don’t have a majority, why did he become chief minister? This is the question everyone asked,” Hegde told a by-election campaign rally in Karnataka.
“More than Rs 40,000 crore was under the chief minister’s control. If the NCP, Congress and the Shiv Sena came to power, that Rs 40,000 crore would certainly not have gone into development projects but into other things.”
Fadnavis, now the leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra, dismissed the claim.
“A company of the central government is implementing the bullet train project, where the Maharashtra government’s role is restricted to land acquisition,” he told reporters in Nagpur.
“Neither has the Centre asked for (the return of) any funds nor has the Maharashtra government sent any back. Not a single rupee of the Maharashtra government has been returned to the Centre from any other project.”
He added: “I have not taken any such policy decision during my tenure as chief minister or caretaker chief minister. Those who understand the accounting system of the Centre and the states know that no such transfer of funds takes place.”
Fadnavis said the state finance department should conduct an inquiry and bring out the truth. “It is wrong to issue such a false statement and seek (our) reaction over it,” he said.
He said he did not know whether Hegde had indeed made such a statement, for he had only heard media reports.
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters in Mumbai: “It is impossible for the state government to return Rs 40,000 crore to the Centre. If at all it (Hegde’s claim) is true, then Prime Minister Modi will have to step down.”
He added: “It is not an injustice to just Maharashtra but to other states as well. People from states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala will not tolerate such injustice.”
Sena MP Sanjay Raut described Fadnavis and the BJP as “criminals” and said the chief secretary would issue a clarification.