Will not bow down before Delhi, will visit ED office on Sept 27: Sharad Pawar
A day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) booked former Union minister Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar for alleged irregularities in the Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief on Wednesday said he will go to the ED office on Friday to ask if they needed any information from him.
Adopting an aggressive stance and hinting that there was a political motive behind the move, Pawar also said that he will not bow down before New Delhi.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis insisted that the action is being taken in accordance with the Bombay high court order and was not politically motivated.
The friction between Pawar and BJP comes just at a time when the campaign for Assembly polls is gaining momentum and the issue is likely to be played up during campaigning.
“Maharashtra follows the ideology of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We don’t know bowing down before the Delhi takht (throne),” Pawar said during a press conference at YB Chavan Centre in Mumbai.
Pawar said he will be going to the Mumbai office of the ED to give his statement.
He said he took the decision as he will be busy next month campaigning for the Maharashtra Assembly elections scheduled on October 21.
“There is a possibility that I won’t be able to reach ED office in case they summon me. I don’t want any misunderstanding by the ED officials and thus decided to go to its office in Mumbai on September 27,” the NCP chief said, “adding, “I will present myself before them [ED], will answer their queries and if they want to extend their hospitality to me then I am ready for it.”
The NCP boss also questioned the timing of the Central probe agency’s case just before the state Assembly polls. “Elections have already been declared. People are smart enough to understand the timing of the action against me. The possibility of vendetta politics cannot be denied,” he added.
Meanwhile, NCP workers held protests at many places in the state, including Mumbai. They held protests at Thane, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Aurangabad and Beed district. In Mumbai, a group of protestors raised slogans outside the ED office at Ballard Estate in South Mumbai. Later, all were detained by the police. The NCP has given its call for a bandh in Beed district on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, core committee leaders of the party met. It was also decided to take the BJP head on, said a senior NCP leader.
Pawar is on a state-wide tour and meeting party cadre after an exodus of senior leaders and sitting legislators, ahead of the state Assembly elections. He is trying to bring the organisation in order and boost the morale of the party cadre. On September 18, he himself declared names of five candidates for the polls from Marathwada region.
On Tuesday, the ED has registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent to a first information report (FIR) filed by police, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, according to officials.
The case pertains to loans provided by Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank to co-operative sugar factories, spinning mills and other processing units. It is alleged that top executives and office-bearers were given loans in a fraudulent manner.
Most of the 48 directors of the MSC bank at the time when the alleged fraud was committed between 2001 and 2011, were elected representatives from various parties.
Pawar also said this is the second case filed against him in his political career. “The first case was filed when I led a protest over farmers’ issues in Jalgaon district in 1986 and now this is the second one. Being a follower of the Ambedkar’s constitution, it my duty to extend full co-operation to the investigation agency,” he said.
Pawar said he has never been director of any of the banks, but whenever any farmers or educational organisation approached him for help, he has always taken up the issue with the state government and the centre.
Speaking in Navi Mumbai, Fadnavis said the FIR filed against the Pawars was not politically motivated. “The BJP-Sena alliance is all set to win the Assembly elections and hence it does not have to resort to such actions,” he remarked.
Fadnavis, who was flanked by Thackeray, said, “In the Bombay HC, a petition had been filed with regard to the Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank scam. The petitioner had named persons and asked for criminal action against them. The court had then ordered the state police to register the case in five days. Thereafter, it ordered contempt as well.”
He added: “The petition was converted into an FIR by the Mumbai police and over 60 people have been charged in the case. It lists the role of all the accused. All this is being probed. According to the rules, in case of an over Rs100-crore financial fraud, the ED automatically takes cognisance of it and converts it into its FIR. It then investigates the money-laundering angle in it. The primary action has been taken accordingly by ED and it is investigating further.”
Fadnavis insisted that the state government has nothing to do with it. “It is wrong to say that the state government is targeting anyone or the action is politically motivated. We have never resorted to vengeance,” he said.
“The ED is not under the state government. Whether it is ED or Mumbai police, they will investigate the matter according to the HC directions. Those guilty will face action and there is no question of action against those found innocent,” he added.
Earlier this month, a few former directors of MSC Bank had moved the Supreme Court to quash the proceedings in the matter, but were unable to get any relief. The top court asked the Mumbai Police to conduct a free and fair probe.
Madhav Bhandari, spokesperson, BJP, said the NCP wants to use the action as a “political tool”. He also stated that the ED’s action is based on the order of the HC. “The action started on the orders of the HC, not by the government, which was issued on August 22. The NCP chief or others would have approached the Supreme Court against the order, but they want to use it as a political tool in the polls,” Bhandari said.
However, another senior BJP leader and former opposition leader Eknath Khadse, said, “I have followed this case of irregularities as leader of Opposition. Since the beginning, Pawar’s name wasn’t there in the list of accused. How has it cropped up all of a sudden?