Three days after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar's switch helped the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis pull off a stunning comeback to power in Maharashtra, investigation has been closed into some cases linked to the irrigation scam in which he is an accused.
A senior official of the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was quoted by news agency ANI as saying that none of the nine cases closed are linked to Ajit Pawar, who was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister along with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in a dawn surprise on Saturday. The official says the move was routine as the date was approaching for an update to the Bombay High Court.
"We are investigating around 3,000 tenders in irrigation-related complaints. These are routine inquiries which are closed and all ongoing investigations are continuing as they were earlier," said senior officer Parambir Singh to news agency ANI.
"None of the cases that were closed today are related to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar," he said.
However, the timing has set off a buzz in the middle of a controversy after the BJP turned the tables on the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress. Ajit Pawar has claimed that all 54 MLAs of the NCP are with him, which has since been contradicted by his uncle and party chief Sharad Pawar.
"It's not right to comment on cases that are sub-judice," said BJP's Raosaheb Danve on being asked about the the development.
Mr Fadnavis and the BJP have always targeted Ajit Pawar over allegations of corruption. In 2014, one of the first actions that he took after becoming Chief Minister was to sanction an investigation into Ajit Pawar's alleged role in the irrigation scam, involving allegations of a swindle of some Rs 70,000 crore when he was Deputy Chief Minister in the Congress-NCP government.
The irrigation scam involves corruption and irregularities in the approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-NCP rule.
Just before last month's Maharashtra election, both Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar were charged by the Enforcement Directorate with money-laundering linked to a cooperative bank scam.
While campaigning for the election, Mr Fadnavis had said in a rally that Ajit Pawar would end up in jail after the polls and would be "chakki peesing and peesing and peesing (will do hard prison labour)", referencing a dialogue from the 1980s blockbuster Sholay.
Ajit Pawar has been accused by critics of crossing over to the BJP's corner to save himself from criminal cases.
The nine cases that have been closed are related to irrigation projects in Washim, Yavatmal, Amravati and Buldhana of the Vidarbha region, according to a notification issued by the anti-corruption bureau.