Mumbai, MAHARASHTRA: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar declared on Wednesday that he would voluntarily appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in its office in Mumbai on Friday, giving his party a chance to consolidate its forces weeks ahead of the state election.
The agency had named the Maratha strongman in a case of alleged irregularities in a state cooperative bank’s dealings on Monday.
In a hurriedly called press conference, Pawar said he would voluntarily appear before the ED since he was going to be away from Mumbai next month due to the election campaign.
“In case the ED sends me a love letter and if I am not present in Mumbai at that time, I have decided that I will voluntarily appear before the ED on September 27 to make sure the ED should not think my absence in Mumbai as my disappearance. I will be available for anything that the ED needs me for. I believe in cooperating with the agency. I am going to answer whatever they want to ask me and I am ready for thier hospitality,” he said.
The ED has filed a money laundering case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and others in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam case, officials said on Tuesday.
When asked if union Home Minister Amit Shah or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both from rival BJP, had a role to play in the case against him, the four-time chief minister of Maharashtra said that “some people have expressed that doubt”.
Sources from the NCP, which has been weakened by large-scale defections to the ruling BJP, told HuffPost India that the party is planning to use Pawar’s appearance before ED as an opportunity to do a show of strength to energize the party cadre on the eve of elections.
“It’s a full toss and that too on the last ball of the match. We are going to hit it out of the stadium. Pawar sahab won’t mind even courting arrest on Friday. Now the entire election will be around Sharad Pawar,” a senior NCP leader told HuffPost India on condition of anonymity.
NCP district presidents and office bearers across Maharashtra have been asked to gather in Mumbai on Friday with all their supporters.
The assembly election for both Maharashtra and Haryana will be held on October 21, and results will be declared on October 24.
HuffPost India reported earlier this month that at least 26 opposition leaders have defected to the ruling BJP in the state.
In an interview, Pawar had told HuffPost India that the government was “misusing” investigative agencies such as CBI and ED to target opposition leaders.
“ This government is acting selectively and taking actions against political leaders who do not belong to their thinking by using certain investigating agencies and sending them behind bars and trying to damage their image in the minds of people,” he said.
Pawar also made it clear at the press conference that he is in no mood to take the ED action lightly.
“Shivaji Maharaj has taught us never to bend before Delhi Takht. Maharashtra never had the tradition to bend before Delhi. I believe in the Constitution written by Dr. Ambedkar, which is why I am raising my hand now to support the agency. I was never a member of the concerned bank. I have not been given any notice but I came across an official statement by ED which said that my name is in the FIR, which is why I am presenting myself for investigation,” he added.
“It’s a full toss and that too on the last ball of the match. We are going to hit it out of the stadium. Pawar sahab won’t mind even courting arrest on Friday. Now the entire election will be around Sharad Pawar”
Thackeray went surprisingly silent after the day-long inquiry but Pawar is unlikely to do the same.
Eknath Khadse, Senior BJP leader and former leader of opposition, also said that Pawar’s name never came up in relation to the case earlier.
Baramati, Pawar’s native town in Pune district, saw a strict shutdown on Wednesday due to protests against the ED case against Pawar. NCP workers also held protests in many districts in Western Maharashtra.