'What is my crime?'
NCP chief Sharad Pawar questions ED summons even as he assures complete cooperation during probe; supporters enforce bandh in Baramati
Nationalist Congress Party boss Sharad Pawar who faces an inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in alleged irregularities in the Maharashtra state cooperative bank, will appear before the Central agency on Friday. Invoking Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, he said he would not surrender to the wishes of the Delhi throne.
The ED action has come ahead of the October 21 Assembly polls in which NCP would be a principal opposition party. Pawar and his party have accused the BJP of political vendetta saying that the unexpected response Pawar's state-wide tour has been receiving had become a cause of concern for the BJP which wants to rule the state single-handedly by routing potential opponents by hook or by crook. The FIR evoked a strong reaction from the Opposition with the NCP forcing a shutdown in Pawar's fiefdom Baramati on Wednesday. Protests were staged across the state. Party workers even marched to the ED's office in Mumbai where the police used force to control and arrest agitators.
Politics ahead of polls
The development has charged up the political atmosphere of the state in the run-up to the Assembly polls. While BJP leaders said that the NCP boss and other leaders shouldn't fear if they were innocent, the Pawar-led party has been trying to extract sympathy for the 79-year-old leader, who has set out to revive the party's prospects. Political pundits have been weighing the pros and cons for the BJP and NCP in view of the ED probe. Earlier, MNS chief Raj Thackeray was summoned to the ED office in relation to the alleged financial irregularities.
Pawar said he believes in the Constitution of India. "Maharashtra follows the ideology of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We don't know what it is to bow down before the Delhi takht (throne)," he said. Apparently, Pawar, who has been a prime target in the speeches that senior BJP leaders have delivered so far, seems to have found an agenda for the Assembly poll campaign that he would pit against BJP's narrative of nationalism and development.
'Ready for ED treat'
Among 76 MSC Bank directors, Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar and leaders of NCP, Shiv Sena, Congress and BJP have been named in the FIR. Pawar said he wasn't director or member of the said bank and yet he was held responsible in the alleged R25,000 crore loan scam. "This is the second (criminal) case in my life. "I want to know my crime in the case. I will share all information with the probing officials and I'm prepared to accept any other treat (read arrest). I will fully cooperate with the agency," he said, adding that the directors who served the inquiry period belonged to several parties. Pawar addressed a media conference at NCP's Mumbai headquarters.
The names cropped in a PIL (filed by Surinder Arora) that the Bombay High Court decided on recently. The court had asked the state to register an FIR. Based on the case, the ED has started investigating money laundering by the accused with regard to loan approvals for sugar and cotton mills in violation of NABARD.
The MSC Bank's board of directors was dissolved by then CM Prithviraj Chavan when a probe had established that loans were distributed without collateral guarantee and fixed responsibility for pushing the apex bank into heavy losses. The MSC Bank governs all district cooperative banks and smaller financial units that work in the farming, cooperative and small manufacturing sectors. Bank's former chairman Ajit Pawar questioned the agency's assessment of the scam. "The bank's total business was much less than the alleged scam figures. How is this possible? Several basic inquiries have not been completed yet," he told reporters.
Rs 25k cr
Value of the alleged bank loan scam
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
Maharashtra Elections 2019: Pankaja Munde and Dhananjay Munde battle it out for Parli