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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

Ajit quits as MLA; Pawar says he was ’disturbed’

mumbai Updated: Sep 28, 2019 00:18 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik

In a day of dramatic developments for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), its chief Sharad Pawar had to address the media twice within a span of few hours on Friday – first to announce the cancellation of his visit to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office in Mumbai, and then to clarify why his nephew, former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, had quit as a legislator.

Ajit Pawar, who along with Sharad Pawar and others has been named by ED in its probe in the Maharashtra State Cooperative (MSC) Bank fraud case, resigned as a member of the Legislative Assembly on Friday evening, fuelling speculation of a divide in NCP and the Pawar family.

Sharad Pawar, however, said that dragging his name into the MSC Bank case had upset his nephew. “Ajit has not spoken to me. I have gathered from his son and other family members that he is deeply disturbed that my name has been dragged into the MSC Bank case, even when I was not a member or on the board,” said Pawar. “I need to talk to him and understand what is on his mind.”

The former Union minister said that Ajit was hurt and may even consider quitting politics and taking up some farming-related work. “He told his son that it is better for him to quit politics rather than be part of such low politics,” said Pawar, adding that there was no rift within their family. “Ajit has always listened to me as the head of the family. This is the tradition in the Pawar family. I have to understand why he has taken such as extreme step. I need to ask him.”

Ajit Pawar’s son, Parth, too, confirmed that his father was hurt with the kind of politics in the state, but said the latter was not quitting politics. “He advised me to avoid politics,” said Parth.

Ajit Pawar, considered the number two in NCP, is currently facing an ED probe in a money laundering case in connection with an alleged Rs25,000-crore MSC Bank fraud. The six-term MLA from Baramati Assembly constituency submitted his resignation to Speaker Haribhau Bagade, which the latter was accepted.

Recently, there were hints of a tussle between Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar when the NCP chief ticked off an announcement by the latter that the party would use saffron flags along with its flag at rallies. Pawar said the decision to use saffron flags was taken by Ajit in his personal capacity and not by the party. Earlier, too, before the Lok Sabha elections, the family had witnessed a tussle as Ajit insisted on Parth contesting Lok Sabha elections from Maval constituency in Pune. Pawar was not in favour of Parth contesting the polls and announced that he was withdrawing from electoral fray as he did not want three persons from the same family contesting the elections (Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule was contesting from Baramati constituency). Eventually, Parth lost the elections.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Pawar dropped his plan to go to the ED office in Mumbai at the request of the agency and the Mumbai Police. Pawar announced that he was cancelling his visit to prevent any “law-and-order” situation from arising in the state, as NCP leaders and workers had gathered in Mumbai, especially near the ED office at Ballard Estate, to hold protests. Sharad Pawar has been named in the MSC Bank fraud case probe by the ED.

On Friday, Opposition leaders came out in Pawar’s support, calling the ED action as “vindictive politics”. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Sharad Pawar Ji is the latest Opposition leader to be targeted by a vindictive Government. The timing of this action, a month before elections in Maharashtra, reeks of political opportunism.”

State Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant was at the NCP office and participated in the protests.

Even the Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, chose to support Pawar. “I see the development from the point of view of the state Assembly elections. Those who know Pawar and understand state politics will say that there was no reason to make the case political. Pawar is a top leader in Maharashtra and in the country. He has a reputation,” said senior Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.

Pawar later thanked Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sanjay Raut and NCP cadre for coming out in his support before leaving for Pune, where he went to visit the areas affected by Thursday’s cloud burst.

First Published: Sep 28, 2019 00:18 IST

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