A day after he said he would speak at the “appropriate time”, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar finally broke his silence and defended beleaguered party leader Chhagan Bhujbal on Thursday. This, however, was not before Bhujbal drove down to meet Pawar and requested his help to combat mounting allegations of corruption against him.
After the visit, Pawar came out in support of Bhujbal and criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “Instead of conducting a fair probe, the investigators are more interested in leaking information, which is surprising. I have handled the home department and this is not the manner in which investigations are done,” said Pawar. Fadnavis, who handles the home portfolio, was Pawar’s unnamed target.
Pawar also flayed the BJP’s state chief, Raosaheb Danve, for saying that NCP leaders would be sent to jail for their role in various scams. “All of us, including myself, are waiting to see when this government puts us behind bars,” he replied.
In his defence of Bhujbal, Pawar said that the projects being investigated were all approved by the cabinet. “Cabinet decisions are decisions of the government. Bhujbal can’t alone be held responsible for such decisions. He is our colleague and we will do everything to back him.”
Pawar’s defence comes after Bhujbal indicated that he was disappointed by the lack of support from the party. Apart from spokesperson Nawab Malik and former state chief Madhukar Pichad, no senior NCP leader had publicly backed Bhujbal until Pawar broke his silence.
Bhujbal, too, reiterated that the allegations against him were unfounded. “The FIRs have been filed on the basis of false allegations. I don’t mind facing a probe. But at least I should have been given a chance to explain my side. The agencies should have probed whether there was substance in the allegations or not,” he said.