Nawab Malik: After a pitched battle, a wait and watch game

Aug 26, 2023 03:15 PM IST

Now, battling a legal case that has links to purchases made by an Underworld don, the newly bailed-out Nawab Malik must handle an intra-party crisis

This year, Independence Day felt a whole lot freer for Nawab Malik, the former minister of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), as he sat on the ground floor of his Kurla home on August 15. He was released last week on medical bail following an order of the Supreme Court (SC) after spending 538 days in custody. Now around 23 kg thinner, Malik has faced a host of health problems since his incarceration: One of his kidneys is damaged, the other is deteriorating on account of other complications, and his doctor has kept him on a strict diet.

Mumbai, India - Aug 14, 2023 : NCP leader Nawab Malik leaves from the Hospital after being granted a Bail at Kurla, in Mumbai, India, Monday, Aug 14, 2023. (Photo by Vijay Bate/HT Photo) (Hindustan Times) PREMIUM
Mumbai, India - Aug 14, 2023 : NCP leader Nawab Malik leaves from the Hospital after being granted a Bail at Kurla, in Mumbai, India, Monday, Aug 14, 2023. (Photo by Vijay Bate/HT Photo) (Hindustan Times)

Still, the 64-year-old isn’t complaining. A long queue of supporters and well-wishers stood outside the compound of his home to extend their best wishes. Union minister Praful Patel and Lok Sabha MP Sunil Tatkare — both colleagues from the party, recently split down the middle by their supremo’s nephew and party leader, Ajit Pawar — were among those who met Malik the day he reached home.

The leader met everyone but remained seated: He was also advised to restrict his movements.

On May 17, 2022, Malik’s health deteriorated rapidly and the leader, who had spent three months in judicial custody, was shifted to Kurla’s CritiCare Hospital. He has remained in the hospital until his release on bail. The SC granted him interim bail for two months on medical grounds on August 11. Malik is not allowed to speak to the media as the case against him is still sub-judice.

Malik was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on February 23, 2022, in connection with a money laundering case. He was accused of usurping a prime property Goawala Compound in Kurla in connivance with Haseena Parkar, the deceased sister of Ibrahim, and her driver Salim Patel, 23 years ago. Malik, a vocal critic of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has maintained that he is a victim of political vendetta.

“His image was stained with the same name he was extremely cautious about his entire life. It is easy to link a Muslim leader, especially one from Mumbai, with Dawood Ibrahim,” a close aide of Malik said.

BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had alleged that NCP leader Nawab Malik and his family entered into land deals with those associated with the underworld. (HT Photo)
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had alleged that NCP leader Nawab Malik and his family entered into land deals with those associated with the underworld. (HT Photo)

In November 2021, the then-leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Malik engaged in a war of words and levelled accusations against each other. Fadnavis alleged that members of Malik’s family had bought a parcel of land from two persons linked to the underworld and who were in prison after being convicted for the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993.

The land in suburban Kurla was purchased from Salim Ishaq Patel, (a frontman of Parkar) and Sardar Shah Wali Khan (a convict in the Mumbai bomb blast in 1993) using fictitious documents and by paying far less than the actual property rate. The National Investigation Agency registered an FIR on February 11, 2022, against Dawood Ibrahim and some of his close aides, and based on that the Enforcement Directorate started an investigation into a money laundering case. Malik was arrested on February 23.

Malik, on the other hand, made several claims against Fadnavis. For one, he alleged that Fadnavis had links with Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide Riyaz Bhati. Three months before his arrest, Malik had tweeted pictures of Fadnavis and his wife, Amruta, with Jaydeep Rana, who was arrested in a drug peddling case. Malik claimed that drug peddlers were protected under Fadnavis’ regime, when the BJP leader was CM between 2014 and 2019.

Malik also took potshots at Fadnavis over his brother’s alleged lavish parties. “I had cautioned you (Fadnavis) when you had completed one year in office about your brother… Had CCTV footage of hotels been released, it would have been difficult for some people to hide their faces at that time. I have never done vendetta politics,” Malik had said.

Fadnavis and other BJP leaders rubbished the allegations, but Fadnavis didn’t back down from the battle. He threatened to expose Malik’s links with “the underworld”.

Sameer Wankhede received bail after eight months
Sameer Wankhede received bail after eight months

However, Malik’s woes can be traced back to even before November 2021. The previous month saw him going hammer and tongs against the incarceration of Aryan Khan, Shahrukh Khan’s 23-year-old son, in a drugs case made by the then Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mumbai zonal director, Sameer Wankhede. Malik made the crusade personal, questioning everything from Wankhede’s witnesses and motive to snare the Bollywood star’s son to the Indian Revenue Service officer’s caste certificate.

Turns out, the fight was personal. Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Khan was arrested by the NCB in January 2021 on charges of a drug trafficking racket — the case is still going on and Sameer is out on bail.

Sameer received bail after eight months, and the chemical analysis report of 11 samples collected from 18 samples and containing a total 194.265 kg of allegedly contraband substance, turned out to be negative for cannabis. Wankhede made the arrest in Sameer Khan’s case too.

Malik, who was the Minority development, Aukuf, skill development and entrepreneurship minister during the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, was vociferous in his criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre.

In October 2021, he made headlines after launching a scathing attack on Wankhede over a drug bust case on the Cordelia Cruise involving Aryan Khan. Malik surprised everyone by claiming that the two men seen escorting Aryan Khan and Arbaaz (another accused) to the NCB Mumbai office were private individuals, which turned out to be true within days.

Malik also alleged that Aryan Khan was arrested after an attempt to get ransom from his family failed. He also claimed that the key witness in the case, Kiran Gosavi was an absconder and another witness Manish Bhanushali was a BJP office-bearer. He said they were part of a “private army” of Wankhede involved in extortion.

“Sameer was framed in a fake case. Wankhede tried to destroy Sameer’s life and this compelled Malik to go after Wankhede,” the aide, who did not wish to be named, said.

Following the allegations made by Malik, a special team of NCB and Mumbai police started investigations independently. In January 2022, Wankhede was sent back to his parent organisation, directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI). Not only this, the central agency did not find any evidence to suggest that Aryan Khan was part of a drugs conspiracy or an international drugs trafficking syndicate in the Cordelia drug bust case and was given a clean chit in May of the same year (2022).

On May 11, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked Wankhede and four others, Vishwa Vijay Singh, intelligence officer Ashish Ranjan, and two private persons K P Gosavi and Sanville D’Souza for alleged criminal conspiracy and threat of extortion besides provisions pertaining to bribery under the Prevention of Corruption Act on a complaint by the NCB. The former NCB officer – now suspended – is accused of trying to extort money from Shahrukh Khan.

The headlines around the story have now shifted focus: it’s now the ‘Wankhede bribery case’, and no longer the ‘Aryan Khan drug bust case’, a clear indication of who’s in the dock now.

Shahrukh Khan visiting Aryan, who was lodged in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai (HT Photo)
Shahrukh Khan visiting Aryan, who was lodged in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai (HT Photo)

Malik’s incarceration took place during hectic political activity: the MVA government fell, the Shiv Sena split, the rebel leader, Eknath Shinde, took charge as CM and his party was allowed to keep the name of the 57-year-old party started by former CM Uddhav Thackeray’s father. Then, on July 2, 2023, his own party faced a volcanic eruption.

Ajit Pawar took the majority of NCP leaders and legislators (the number of MLAs who are loyal to Ajit is still unknown) and joined Shinde’s Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government. He now holds the post of deputy CM, alongside Devendra Fadnavis

Clearly, all parties must walk a political tightrope now — not a word has been said about Malik’s release by any BJP leader, including Fadnavis.

With a court-imposed gag order on Malik, it remains to be seen which way the chips will fall.

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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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