Devendra Fadnavis. File Pic
Maharashtra deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday wrote to his cabinet colleague and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar expressing opposition to the induction of NCP MLA Nawab Malik, an accused in an Enforcement Directorate case, in the ruling 'Maha Yuti' or grand alliance in the state, reported the PTI.
Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders Ambadas Danve and Sushma Andhare targeted the government over Nawab Malik 'joining' the treasury benches, even though he himself has not made it clear whether he is affiliated to the Ajit Pawar-led rebel NCP group or the Sharad Pawar-led faction.
Out on medical bail after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested him in February 2022 in a money-laundering probe linked to the activities of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his aides, Malik attended the winter session of the Maharashtra legislature here for the first time on Thursday. He sat on the last bench in the assembly, next to the MLAs of the Ajit Pawar-led faction of the Nationalist Congress Party.
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The ruling alliance in the state comprises the BJP, Ajit Pawar-led NCP and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.
In his letter to Ajit Pawar, who too is a deputy CM, Devendra Fadnavis said that Nawab Malik has the right to attend the assembly as an MLA and added that "we (the BJP) do not harbour any personal animosity or grudge" against him, as per the PTI.
"However, considering the kind of allegations he is facing, we are of the opinion that it would not be appropriate to induct him in the Maha Yuti," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said while also noting that Nawab Malik was out only on medical bail (and not regular bail).
"We agree that it is your prerogative (to decide) who should be inducted in your party. But every constituent party (of the Maha Yuti) has to think as to whether it would harm the alliance. Hence, we are opposed to this," Devendra Fadnavis added, according to the PTI.
He also said that his party could not be on the same page as the "then chief minister" and the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government which had allowed Nawab Malik to continue as a minister even after he was arrested "on the charges of having links with anti-national elements".
Nawab Malik was a cabinet minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government at the time of his arrest.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sushama Andhare earlier took a jibe at Devendra Fadnavis, saying he could put a chameleon to shame so fast he had changed his stand on Nawab Malik "against whom you all had taken out protest marches and disrupted the house proceedings several times (during the MVA government)."
(with PTI inputs)