ED action against Sharad Pawar snowballs into major political row

Our Bureau Pune | Updated on September 26, 2019 Published on September 26, 2019

The Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) move to register a money-laundering case against Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has snowballed into a major political issue and is likely to become an election agenda for the Maratha strongman.

Interestingly, the BJP’s disgruntled leader, Eknath Khadse, has said that Pawar has no connection with the alleged scam.

The ED has registered a case purportedly involving Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and about 70 former functionaries of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) to probe an alleged ₹25,000-crore scam. The agency has launched the probe based on a FIR lodged by the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police, following a Bombay High Court directive.

Asserting that he won’t bow down before Delhi, Pawar tweeted: “ .. I respect the Constitution and hence I will cooperate with the probe. But let me tell you one thing. This is Shivaba’s ( Chattrapati Shivaji’s) Maharashtra and Maharashtra has not taught me to bow before Delhi power.”

“As mentioned during my press conference yesterday, I will be visiting the Mumbai ED office at Ballard Estate tomorrow, Friday 27 September, at 14.00 hrs… I appeal to all my NCP cadre and supporters not to gather near the ED office premises. Keeping our tradition to honour the Constitution and respect for institutions, I request your co-operation to the police and other government agencies” he tweeted on Thursday.

In election arena

However, NCP workers have already started agitations across the State. Party leaders said that they will not tolerate any disrespect to Pawar. While Congress leaders have preferred to keep mum on the development, the NCP ready to take the matter in the election arena.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has denied political vendetta, but his senior party colleague has landed him in a tight spot. Eknath Khadse, a BJP veteran and former minister in Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet, told reporters that Pawar’s name was never mentioned in the MSCB corruption case when he was “following it up” as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly. “I had followed up the MSC bank corruption case... I have raised it several times, but I can state that Sharad Pawar’s name was nowhere in the entire case. I wonder how his name got involved,” he said. Khadse is unhappy with Fadnavis’ camp since the CM forced him to resign from the cabinet following corruption charges against him in June 2016. For Pawar, with his lieutenants including sitting MLAs and his close relatives deserting the party to join BJP and Sena camp, this is one of the toughest battles of his political life. At the age of 80, the Maratha strongman is on whirlwind tour in the State to prove his mettle and has succeeded to pose a challenge before the BJP-Sena which was expecting a cakewalk in the State polls.

Published on September 26, 2019
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