Mumbai: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has decided to use the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case against its chief, Sharad Pawar, to galvanise party workers ahead of forthcoming Vidhan Sabha polls in the state.
Mr Pawar has, meanwhile, taken an aggressive stand, invoking the legacy of the 17th century founder of the Maratha Empire to defend himself on Wednesday. “Mahar-ashtra follows the ideology of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We do not bow before the Delhi takht (throne),” the 78-year-old former chief minister said.
The NCP chief said he would visit the ED office himself on September 27 to seek the agency’s ‘hospitality.’ “I believe in the Constitution of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and, hence, will give all the information that I have related to this case… I will mostly be out of Mumbai for our Assembly poll campaign. The ED officials shouldn’t misunderstand that I am unavailable. Hence, I will go to the agency’s office in Mumbai and extend my co-operation,” he said.
The ED has filed a money-laundering case against Mr Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and 70 others in connection with the alleged `25,000-crore scam involving the sanction of loans by the Maharashtra State Coop-erative Bank (MSCB).
The NCP chief, however, said that he has never been associated with the bank — either as a member or director. “I have never been part of the bank’s decision-making process,” he said.
Alleging political vendetta, the Rajya Sabha MP said, “The development has happened when the polls are round the corner. So the people understand what is up.”
The leader said he was arrested only once in his life, during a rally from Jalgaon to Nagpur in 1980, after he led a protest march over an agrarian issue.
Former state deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar also said there was no scam and added that the NCP president was nowhere related or involved in the matter.
Is it possible there is `25,000 crore scam, as is being said, in the bank whose deposits were between `12,000 crore to `13,000 crore?” he said. Ajit Pawar said the bank was still making profit and questioned how come it was possible for the bank to register such a performance in the wake of the alleged scam. “The matter should be probed,” he said.
According to political observers, the ED’s actions could prove a blessing in disguise for the NCP, which is in dire straits due to a series of desertions of its prominent leaders. To protest the ED’s actions, irate party workers held pro-tests across the state and a shut-down was observed in Baramati, Mr Pawar’s hometown. Workers of the NCP’s youth wing also staged a protest outside the ED office in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the ED registered the case based on Bombay high court's directive and said the step should not be ascribed to political vendetta. “It would be wrong to attribute a political motive for the ED action and call it a political vendetta (by the BJP government),” he said....