NCP chief Sharad Pawar will not visit the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office on Friday. The former Union minister, named in a money-laundering case by the ED in connection with a scam at Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, had said he will visit the ED office at Ballard Pier in South Mumbai on Friday afternoon. ED had asked Pawar not to visit its office, saying he was not required to do so right now. However, Pawar has insisted on visiting the office on Friday.
Pawar said he decided to change his decision after he was informed that huis visit may cause law and order problems in the city. Pawas explained the reason behind his decision saying Mumbai Commissioner of Police and Joint CP meet him and requested not to go so that the law and order situation remains under control.
Earlier, Mumbai Police had to impose prohibitory orders outside the Enforcement Directorate's office and surrounding areas ahead of Pawar's planned visit to the agency office. A large number of police personnel were deployed and roads leading to the ED office at Ballard Pier of South Mumbai was closed in view of Pawar's visit, police said on Friday morning.
Pawar's statement ended what was a dramatic day that started with NCP claiming that police had detained many of its workers as they planned to protest the ED's action against their party leader.
"Honourable @PawarSpeaks Saheb will visit ED office at 2 pm. Workers will be present in big number in his support. But the police started detaining workers since yesterday night. We are people who believe in law and order. This suppression is not right. Condemnation!" NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik tweeted.
ED then sent an e-mail stating that Sharad Pawar was not required to visit the office on the day. However, Sharad Pawar was firm to visit, said NCP leader Nawab Malik.
Police Use Sniffer Dogs, Drones
On Friday morning, a police team arrived with sniffer dogs at Nationalist Congress Party's office in Mumbai. Police are also using drone to keep an eye on the security arrangements.
Maharashtra: A police team arrives with sniffer dog at Nationalist Congress Party's office in Mumbai. pic.twitter.com/LTKhDHTIGL— ANI (@ANI) September 27, 2019
#WATCH Mumbai Police uses drone for security surveillance at Ballard Estate where Section 144 is imposed. NCP Chief Sharad Pawar will visit ED office today for their investigation in the money laundering case in which he has been named. pic.twitter.com/ttWA4wf33h— ANI (@ANI) September 27, 2019
The NCP has termed the ED case as politically motivated.
Rahul Gandhi Accuses Govt Of 'Political Opportunism'
In show of support to Pawar, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the Modi government, accusing it of being vindictive and targeting NCP chief Sharad Pawar ahead of the Maharashtra polls.
"Sharad Pawar Ji is the latest Opposition leader to be targeted by a vindictive Government. The timing of this action, a month before elections in Maharashtra, reeks of political opportunism," he said on Twitter."
Gandhi has been critical of the government targeting opposition leaders. The Congress has said that cases are being slapped against opposition leaders ahead of elections in states.
NCP Workers Stage Protest
NCP workers had staged protests in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra when the ED named Pawar in the case earlier this week. Anticipating similar protests on Friday, orders prohibiting movement of groups of people under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been imposed outside the ED office, a police official said on Thursday night.
A late Thursday night communication from the police said prohibitory orders have also been imposed under the jurisdictions of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Marine Drive, Dongri, Azad Maidan, J J Marg and MRA Marg police stations in South Mumbai.
Pawar has appealed to party workers not to gather outside the ED office.
Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party workers assemble outside party office, raise slogans in support of party Chief Sharad Pawar ahead of his visit to Enforcement Directorate office today. pic.twitter.com/OBLZBqcXk9— ANI (@ANI) September 27, 2019
Some key routes in the area like S S Ram Ghulam Road, Karimbhoy Road and J N Hardiya Road have been closed for traffic, an official said. However, vehicles of VIPs and emergency services will be allowed on these roads, he said, adding parking has been prohibited in the area for the day.
All precautionary measures have been taken to maintain law and order and avoid any untoward incident, the official said.
The NCPs state office is situated near the ED premises and there is a possibility that a large number of party supporters may gather in the area, he said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil and party general secretary Jitendra Awhad reached Pawar's residence ahead of the veteran leader's visit to the ED office later in the day.
Sharad Pawar To "Voluntarily" Visit ED Office
The NCP patriarch has already said he would "voluntarily" visit the ED office and co-operate with the probe agency given his faith in the Constitution.
The ED has filed the money-laundering case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar, a former deputy chief minister, and others in connection with the scam.
The veteran leader has been maintaining he was not associated with the bank in any capacity and questioned the timing of the registration of the case which comes just weeks ahead of the October 21 Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
An Enforcement Case Information Report, equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named former chairmen of the bank, Ajit Pawar, and 70 erstwhile functionaries of the cooperative lender.