Mumbai: Maharashtra Congress on Tuesday said beleaguered NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal's arrest in a money laundering case was unwarranted and took potshots at the Centre for "letting" debt-laden businessman Vijay Mallya leave the country when he was facing loan default proceedings.
Stating that standing by Bhujbal was its "alliance dharma", the Opposition maintained the investigation agency (ED) could have avoided putting the leader behind bars as he was cooperating in probe.
The 68-year-old NCP leader has held important portfolios in governments headed by Congress, which was in power in the state from 1999 to 2014.
"At the end of the day, we are allies. Congress is not against inquiries that are being conducted (against Bhujbal and his kin). BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state may inquire as much as they want.
"But arresting (Bhujbal) without prior notice is not how you go about it," Leader of Opposition in Assembly and Congress member Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said while speaking to a select group of media persons here.
The ex-Deputy Chief Minister had been cooperating in investigation and thus his arrest was not warranted, he said.
"If the government can let Vijay Mallya, accused of defaulting on bank loans running into thousands of crore, leave the country, they could have avoided Bhujbal's arrest as well," Vikhe-Patil said.
Vikhe-Patil, however, did not respond when asked to comment on the NCP's submission that all decisions taken by Bhujbal during his tenure as the PWD minister were a collective decision of the state Cabinet headed by the then Congress Chief Minister.
He said Congress and NCP legislators will hold an "informal meeting" tomorrow morning and decide on the next course of action on the issue.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, speaking in the Assembly, justified Bhujbal's arrest, saying it was effected on the basis of "concrete proof" collected by ED.
Fadnavis also rejected the NCP's vendetta politics charge in the matter. Bhujbal was arrested late last night by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after 10 hours of questioning in connection with the alleged scam in construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi filed against him and others.