MUMBAI: After Pankaja Munde, another leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Maharashtra government is caught up in a row over awarding contracts for fire extinguishers for schools, supposedly without a tender. Vinod Tawde handling the education portfolio in the state is the second minister in the seven-month-old Devendra Fadnavis government to be charged of financial irregularity in award of contracts.

Not many days, controversy around state’s Minister for Women and Child Welfare Development Pankaja Munde erupted after she was accused of the ‘chikki scam’ worth Rs. 206 crore by the opposition.

Congress in Mumbai is out on streets demanding the resignation from both Tawde and Munde.

The finance department of Maharashtra in January had stopped a 191-crore purchase order issued by Tawde’s ministry for fire extinguishers for government-run schools. It has now demanded a detailed investigation into allegations around Tawde of a Rs. 191 crore contract without e-tendering that was put on hold by the department after it objected to it.

The case is related to the supply of fire extinguishers to 62,105 zilla parishad schools in Maharashtra.

Tawde’s department on February 11 this year issued a government resolution authorizing the office of the Education Director (Primary) to enter into a rate contract to provide the fire extinguishers and each of which was to be obtained for Rs. 8,321 and each school was to be given three extinguishers.

In an official note, the finance department said, “Official communications show that the orders were issued following Tawde’s directives dated January 6.”
As expressed by Maharashtra’s Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, there is no reason for the controversy. “The Finance Ministry raised objections based on Supreme Court guidelines and this is an old file. The Education Minister himself had stopped the file after the objection,” he said adding that this is a plot to defame the government.

The Fadnavis government has also so far firmly backed Pankaja Munde, who arrived in Mumbai from the US this morning.

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