In fresh trouble for the BJP-led government in Maharashtra, Education Minister Vinod Tawde is facing allegations of irregularities in connection with the awarding of a ₹191-crore contract without inviting tenders, a charge denied by him.

The fresh allegation against a Maharashtra minister comes close on the heels of a similar charge against Women and Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde.

The Finance Department has sought a probe into the alleged irregularities pertaining to a contract awarded by the School Education Department for buying fire extinguishers without e-tendering for Zilla Parishad schools across the State. The contract, cleared by Tawde, has been put on hold after the Finance Department objected to it.

Tawde, a high profile BJP member in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet, refuted the allegation, as did Munde last week about charges hurled at her by the opposition Congress.

“Not a single rupee has been paid to contractors. We stopped the order immediately after the Finance Department raised objections,” Tawde told reporters today.

On February 11, the department issued a government resolution authorising the office of the Education Director (Primary) to enter into a rate contract for supply of 62,105 fire extinguishers for Zilla Parishad schools across the State. Each fire extinguisher was to be procured at a price of ₹8,321 and each school was to be provided three pieces.

Meanwhile, top BJP ministers in the Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra today rushed to defend Tawde.

At a hurriedly convened press conference here this afternoon, he was flanked by Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and Co-operatives minister Chandrakant Patil.

“The Opposition is making a mountain out of mole hill,” Mungantiwar said.

Meanwhile, a week after coming under a cloud of allegations, Pankaja Munde today asserted she will expose the conspiracy against her. Back home from a trip to London, Munde, addressing supporters at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here, said: “I will expose the conspiracy against me with your trust and support.”

Step down, says Sena

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant today favoured the stepping down of Tawde and Munde until proved innocent. The Sena leader also said the party will wait for Fadnavis’ statement on the issue.

“When such an incident had happened during Balasaheb’s time, he asked for proof against his minister. When he prima facie found substance in the material given to him, he asked his minister to resign, face an inquiry and asked him to come out clean. He had categorically told his minister that he would be reinstated if he comes clean in the inquiry,” Sawant added.