Will Sharad Pawar face the same fate as P Chidambaram?

Sharad Pawar, who aspired to be the Prime Minister, is in shock after his name came up in a case of money-laundering and corruption that too ahead of Maharashtra assembly elections.

In a sensational development on Tuesday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) named Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar, besides other state political leaders and officials in the alleged Rs 25,000-crore scam in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank Ltd.

While these charges, as standalone cases of corruption, may or may not hold enough water to stand the scrutiny of a court in due time, the crackdown only on opposition leaders, and the timing of such actions has often been questioned. But, deciding to pose a headlong challenge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine, on Wednesday, an unfazed Pawar announced he would voluntarily visit the probe agency office to offer full cooperation for any investigation and experience the ED's 'hospitality'.

The ED is expected to disallow entry to the NCP chief in its office to "submit information" related to the alleged Rs 25,000-crore scam in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB), officials said told PTI on Thursday. Pawar has not been summoned yet, they said, adding the Maratha strongman will be called for questioning and recording of statement "whenever it is required".

Just a month ago, Pawar's colleauge and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was arrested by ED for alleged money laundering case. A different case, a different counsel, but the story was similar in Chidambaram's case where the latter's primary contention was that he has answered all summons and appeared before the agency for questioning.

After long hearings at ED offices, Chidambaram was arrested in a dramatic turn of events, just when the Congress party was readying an attack on the government on the issue of joblessness and lack of growth, as implied by the former finance minister himself.

And Pawar's case comes close on the heels of Maharashtra polls and a time when the opposition in the state is trying to join forces.

Pawar said, “I am not surprised that the government has taken this decision. This is a clear-cut indication that I am getting a very good response. I’m happy because I haven't taken a single thing from the bank. I am happy because elections are round the corner and I am getting extremely good response from Maharashtra. Because of this action, the response for me will definitely improve," he said.

Believe it or not, this may have proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Maharashtra Opposition on poll-eve. The fumbling Opposition parties suddenly crackled to life after Pawar, 78, announced plans to put up a spirited fight by going suo moto to the ED office on Friday. All Opposition parties have declared that they are firmly behind Pawar in this crisis and the people of the state will "give a fitting reply" to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine in the state and centre.

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