A shocked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) took to the streets and protested inside the Maharashtra assembly on Tuesday over the arrest of senior party leader Chhagan Bhujbal for alleged money laundering in the construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.
Sources indicated the arrest was not anticipated by the NCP, which called it a political conspiracy and questioned the government’s motive behind the move.
“A BJP MP announced that Bhujbal would be arrested and then it happened. This smacks of political motive,” NCP chief Sharad Pawar told the media in Delhi.
“I don’t want to comment on the legal aspects of the case. We will fight the legal battle. We are behind Bhujbal.”
Pawar pointed out the decision to allot the contract to build Maharashtra Sadan was taken by a cabinet sub-committee under the then chief minister.
His party leaders enforced road blockades across the state and staged a ‘dharna’ on the stairs of the Vidhan Bhavan building, wearing black arm bands as a mark of protest. Congress legislators joined them.
NCP leaders demanded discussion in both Houses of the state legislature against the arrest, disrupting proceedings several times. The lower House was adjourned four times when speaker Haribhau Bagade refused to admit adjournment motion notice.
Congress’ Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, leader of opposition also supported NCP’s adjournment motion.
“Let the law take its own course in the probe but this arrest smacks of a specific political motive. The BJP is trying to unleash political terror,” said Vikhe Patil in the lower House. Opposition parties, including the Congress, staged a walkout.
The legislative council was adjourned for the day following three back-to-back adjournments. The issue was raised by Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition. Members from the opposition rushed to the well and started shouting slogans when chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar refused to accept notice for adjournment motion. “Jo Hitler ki chaal chalega, Wo Hitler ki maut marega” (The person who will act like Hitler will die like him) was one of the slogans raised by the opposition legislators.
Bhujbal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for allegedly receiving kickbacks worth crores in the Maharashtra Sadan case. Bhujbal’s nephew Sameer also a former MP is already facing arrest in the same case.
Senior NCP leader Jayant Patil alleged that ED was pressurised by the BJP to take action against Bhujbal and the move is to defame party and its leaders.
“It is a conspiracy being planned by the BJP. If not then how Kirit Somaiya, a BJP MP from Mumbai North East parliamentary constituency, was privy to the information of Bhujbal’s arrest by Monday afternoon itself and had made it public before the media even as questioning was going on,” Patil said in the Vidhan Bhavan premises raising questions on the intentions of the BJP government.
NCP workers staged protests at Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Yeola, Manmad, Ojhar, Aurangabad and Nashik. Bhujbal supporters also blocked the Mumbai-Agra highway apart from burning effigy of the state government. In Nashik too, party workers burnt effigy of BJP MP Kirit Somaiya.