Back to his old fighting form, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar — who has been named by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case — said on Wednesday that he will suo moto ‘present’ himself at the ED office on Friday afternoon.
“I came to know about the ED case only yesterday (Tuesday). I shall fully cooperate with the investigating agency. I am prepared for any kind of ‘hospitality’ offered by them,” Sharad Pawar told media persons here.
Pointing out that it is the probe agency’s right to investigate the matter, the veteran politician said that he would go to the ED office in south Mumbai at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
“I believe in the country’s Constitution drafted by Babasaheb Ambedkar… I was never a director in any of the banks. But I will fully cooperate with the ED and provide them with whatever information they require,” the NCP chief said.
The development came a day after the ED lodged cases against Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and other politicians and officials for their involvement in the alleged scam of Rs 25,000 crore in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB).
The ED move, coming ahead of the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections, has caused political tremors in the state. The development came a month after the Bombay High Court ordered the Mumbai Police to lodge an FIR in the MSCB matter.
Sharad Pawar added that this was only the second such case filed against him in his entire life and he would fully participate in the probe.
Hinting at putting up a spirited fight, he said that Maharashtra has a long tradition of following the ideals of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, so “we shall never surrender before the Delhi ‘takht’ (throne)”.
In a veiled attack on the BJP-led ruling front, Pawar added that the people of the state have responded tremendously to the NCP in the election campaign and the ED action was a conspiracy hatched against them.
“However, the people of the state are watching and understanding everything that is going on before the elections,” he said.
Reacting to Sharad Pawar’s statements, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the government has no role to play in the matter and the allegations were totally baseless.
“The Mumbai Police have filed the FIR on the basis of the Bombay High Court orders… When any scam of Rs 100 crore takes place, the ED also take cognizance and probes the money-laundering angles,” Fadnavis pointed out.
Dismissing the allegations that the state government was instrumental in targeting people ahead of the elections, the Chief Minister said that the ED has merely followed its procedures.
Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of NCP and the party’s youth wing workers staged a noisy demonstration outside the ED office, protesting the cases lodged against the NCP leaders and others in the alleged MSCB scam.
The police resorted to mild lathi-charge and rounded up many of the demonstrators to disperse the agitation.
Similar protests were held in other parts of the state, including Pawar’s home town Baramati, Pune and western Maharashtra.