Within a week of taking charge of the finance department, Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has showered funds on NCP’s rebel MLAs.
Pawar has sanctioned funds of Rs 25 crore or more for development works in the constituencies of these MLAs for which a special provision was made in the supplementary demands. According to sources, Pawar has also tried to make Eknath Shinde camp MLAs happy by allocating funds to them.
As soon as the portfolios were distributed last week, Pawar approved funds for development works in the constituencies of the MLAs who supported the rebellion in the NCP. Earlier, the MLAs supporting Pawar were asked for a list of development works. Last week, the finance department submitted the supplementary demands in both the houses of Maharashtra Assembly in which a special provision of Rs 1,500 crore was made for development works. Both the houses of the state assembly had passed these supplementary demands.
According to the source, the NCP MLAs were promised sufficient funds for development work in their constituencies in return for support to Jr Pawar who engineered a rebellion against his uncle Sharad Pawar and joined the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis sarkar with his team.
Ajit Pawar has sanctioned funds in the range of Rs 25-50 crore to NCP MLAs. Saroj Ahire, one of the NCP MLAs who hails from Devlali constituency of Nashik district, is said to have got Rs 40 crore for stalled development works in her constituency. Interestingly, Ahire was earlier backing Sharad Pawar but after she extended her support to Ajit Pawar, she received the amount from the finance department.
After Ajit Pawar’s rebellion, his camp had targeted two leaders from the Sharad Pawar team — Jayant Patil and Jitendra Awhad. To everyone’s surprise, while Ajit Pawar sanctioned funds to Patil for development works, Awhad still seems to be on the waiting list.
The Shinde group had opposed handing over the finance department to Pawar, given the deputy CM’s track record. One of the reasons the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs had given while parting ways with Uddhav Thackeray was unequal fund distribution by Pawar during his stint in the MVA government. However, by allocating funds to them, Pawar seems to have won over the Shinde group.
The practice of appeasing ruling party MLAs by providing funds started during the Congress-NCP alliance government in the state. Then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s government had sanctioned funds between Rs 5-10 crore for constituencies of MLAs from ruling parties. Opposition parties BJP and Shiv Sena had objected to the practice which was also challenged in court.
After regime change in 2014, the Devendra Fadnavis government sanctioned more funds for constituencies of BJP and Shiv Sena MLAs. When the Maha Vikas Aghadi government came to power in 2019, Uddhav Thackeray and Ajit Pawar approved funds for development works in the constituencies of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress MLAs. The then Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis objected to this. As soon as there was a change of power last June, funds were approved for development works in the constituencies of BJP and Shinde group MLAs.
Speaking to the media at the state assembly, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Shirsat said: “It is a regular practice that those who are in power always get good funds for development works. When we were in opposition, we also used to get less funds of our constituencies.”
CLP leader and former cabinet minister Balasaheb Thorat, meanwhile, questioned such allocation by the government. “Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and both deputy chief ministers had assured balanced development of the state. How will it be achieved by giving special funds to ruling party MLAs and ignoring opposition MLAs” Shiv Sena UBT leader Sunil Prabhu had also objected to the disparate distribution of funds, alleging that none of the 16 MLAs of Shiv Sena UBT faction had received funds.