Pankaja Munde denies any scam, ready to face probe

Mumbai, July 1 (IANS) Under fire for alleged irregularities in awarding contracts for materials worth Rs.206 crore for schoolchildren, Maharashtra’s Women and Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde on Wednesday denied any scam and said she was prepared for any inquiry.

“This is a scam of words. The allegations against me are politically motivated,” said Pankaja Munde, daughter of the late union minister Gopinath Munde.

She said the earlier Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra purchased similar items at a cost of Rs.408 crore.

“You term that a ‘purchase’ and call our procurement a ‘scam’,” Munde told media persons.

The minister is accused of flouting procedures in awarding contracts for supplying items like ‘chikki’ (sweetmeat made with nuts and jaggery), mats, notebooks, water filters etc. for schoolchildren.

Claiming that the items were purchased at a higher price by the previous government, Munde said the charges against her were totally baseless.

“I want every child to fight malnourishment. I will ensure that this happens,” she declared, giving a point-by-point rebuttal of the allegations levelled against her.

Munde accused the opposition of pinning the scam on to a BJP minister and said there was nothing wrong in the purchases made through the rate contract system.

“There is no irregularity of even a single rupee. My department and I are ready to face any probe and shall also reply to the queries by the Anti-Corruption Bureau,” she said.

Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant lodged a complaint with the ACB demanding an inquiry into the allegations against Munde and submitted a file of documents purportedly supporting the charges.

The ACB has written to the state government asking for its replies to the charges.

Munde also claimed that the opposition parties prepared a file of allegations against her and submitted it to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the first week of May, but Fadnavis did not find any wrongdoing on her part.

Munde was joined at the media briefing by Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, BJP’s ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksh chief Mahadev Jankar, her sister and party MP from Beed Preetam Munde and others.

Munde is the second prominent minister in the Fadnavis cabinet who is facing charges of irregularities.

Earlier, Education Minister Vinod Tawde was accused of getting a fake degree from a banned university and later also faced allegations of irregularities in awarding a contract for fire extinguishers worth Rs.191 crore for government schools.

However, Tawde has denied all charges in both the matters.

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