Nitin Gadkari’s tenure as Maharashtra PWD minister saw private firm’s meteoric rise

October 29, 2012

Dattatraya Pandurang Mhaiskar, the original promoter of IRB, might be insisting that hisRs.164 crore “loan” toNitin Gadkari’sPurti Group was out of his personal savings.

But it cannot be denied that the projects given to IRB duringGadkari’stenure as the Maharashtra PWD minister played a significant role in the company’s rise.

Mhaiskar, a civil engineer, started IRBPL as a private company in 1977. Even though the company did a number of odd road construction projects during the first 18 years of its existence, the turning point came in 1995, when it signed the concession agreement for the first phase of the Thane Bhiwandi Bypass, its first Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project.

Incidentally, it was in 1995 that Gadkari became the Maharashtra PWD minister.

Between 1995 and 1999, the years Gadkari was at the helm of the state’s PWD ministry, the Mhaiskars got a flurry of big road construction contracts on a BOT basis. It’s completion of the Thane Bhiwandi bypass within two years worked as an advantage and it got contracts for the construction of a bridge over Patalganga river, the Khambatki Ghat project, the Kaman Paygaon project and the Bhiwandi Wada project during this period.

Gadkari emerged as one of the major champions of the BOT model and IRB was one of the main companies that benefited from the system.

During this period, Gadkari is said to have come into conflict with the then powerful Union minister Pramod Mahajan, over the Mumbai-Pune expressway project. It is believed Mahajan and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray wanted the project to be given to a prominent industrial house but Gadkari pushed the case of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation.

Even this worked out in IRB’s advantage in the long run as it got the contract for maintenance and toll collection in 2004.

From a small company started by a civil engineer, IRB is one of the country’s largest road construction and infrastructure companies today.

It’s hardly surprising that the group’s USP is its ability to get crucial government contracts.

According to a report by PINC research, “IRB’s unique ability to win bids at competitive levels is a trademark”. The total worth of the contracts IRB got during Gadkari’s tenure as the PWD minister is estimated to be aboutRs.60 crore.

Gadkari, on his part, denies granting any special favours to IRB. “I gave numerous contracts when I was PWD minister as the maximum road construction took place during my time. I have no stake in IRB. These are just efforts to malign me,” Gadkari said. He also maintains that there is nothing wrong if IRBPL invested in the Purti Group. “Anyway I am no longer the chairman of Purti Group,” he said.


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