Few hours after the ED filed a case against him and others in the MSCB scam case, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said he would have been "surprised" had there not been such an action against him given the "huge" response he received during his poll campaign in Maharashtra. In a sarcastic comment, Pawar also "thanked" the central agency for naming him in the case relating to the bank of which he "is not a member and was not involved in its decision-making" in any way.
The Maharashtra unit of the ruling BJP, however, justified the Enforcement Directorate (ED) action, saying it took the steps as per rules and procedure. "I thank the probe agencies because they have involved my name in a case relating to such a bank of which I am not even a member of, I was not involved in its decision-making," Pawar told reporters in Mumbai.
"If they have filed a case against me too, I welcome it. I would have been surprised had such action not been taken against me after the kind of response I receive during my visits to various districts of the state," he added.
The former Union minister, however, said he will continue with his campaigning for the October 21 assembly polls in Maharashtra. Pawar, who initially appeared clueless about his name figuring in the ED's case, said he has not received any notice yet. The NCP dismissed it as a politically motivated case. "This is a politically motivated move, aimed at defaming opposition leaders ahead of the polls," NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged.
Another NCP leader, Dhananjay Munde, criticised the move and said efforts were being made to bedevil Pawar given the “huge” response he was receiving in the poll-bound state and the same had made the ruling BJP "fidgety". Taking to Twitter, Munde said the "time will change".
The Maharashtra Congress, too, hit out at the Modi government, saying the ED is being used to suppress opposition leaders to ensure "totalitarian" regime of the BJP. "The ED is being used to suppress leaders in the opposition; it is clear it is being done to bring the totalitarian rule of the BJP. This establishes the autocracy has arrived in the country," Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande pitched for a probe into the matter (MSCB scam) to give justice to the people and called for punishing the guilty. "Common people deposit money in co-operative banks. This matter should be probed. Action should be taken against whoever is guilty irrespective of the parties they belong to," Kayande said.
Asked about the development, Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said the ED took the step as per rules and norms. "If there is a scam, if an FIR is registered in its connection and if the scam is to the tune of more than Rs 100 crore, the ED has to take cognisance of the same. This is the protocol. Case was filed in Mumbai as per the Bombay High Court order...the ED has taken action as per the procedure," Upadhye added.
The ED, a specialised financial probe agency, has filed a money laundering case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and others in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam case, officials said on Tuesday. They said an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named former chairmen of the bank, ex-deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar and 70 former functionaries of the cooperative bank. The registration of the case comes just weeks ahead of polling in the BJP-ruled state.