Mumbai : A Special Investigation Team of the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau on Tuesday swopped down on 17 properties belonging to senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer.
The searches were carried out at the Bhujbal homes and offices in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik, an ACB official said. These included seven residences and offices in Mumbai, a bungalow in Thane, commercial premises in Navi Mumbai, three farmhouses and two bungalows in Nashik, a flat in Pune and a bungalow on a 65-acre plot with a helipad in Lonavala.
Sources said that 15 teams of ACB carried out the searches.
The raids followed offences registered by the ACB in the past few weeks against the Bhujbals and 14 others; the main charge is corruption and amassing assets beyond their known sources of income.
The former deputy chief minister and his Nationalist Congress Party lost no time in crying “political vendetta,” even as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis brushed aside the allegation and said the law was taking its own course. Bhujbal, while speaking to a news channel, said, “The decisions were collective. More than half of the cabinet was involved. Then why are they targeting only me?”
Following numerous complaints, the ACB had lodged an FIR against Bhujbal and son Pankaj, both legislators, and nephew Sameer, a former MP, for alleged irregularities in awarding the contract to construct the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.
Last year, following the Bombay High Court directive on a PIL, the ACB had formed a special investigative team to look into the Maharashtra Sadan contract and other cases, including allotment of a plot of land in Kalina to a realtor.
No govt was so vindictive
With the noose tightening around him, Bhujbal said the Fadnavis government was “targeting” him and his family. “I don’t remember any government in Maharashtra’s history targeting anyone the way I am being targeted by the present government,” Bhujbal said while speaking to a news channel. “I am amazed at the speed with which the ACB has acted in the case,” he said sarcastically and added that the decisions were not his alone and at least half a dozen members of the cabinet were involved in them. “Why are they not being questioned?” he asked.
“Allegations are being levelled against us (family) for things done in a legal manner, by committees chaired by the (then) chief minister,” he said.
“The court asked you (the Maharashtra state government) to probe (the allegations of corruption). It did not ask you to file FIRs. You can see clearly that the decisions (under scanner) were taken by the cabinet sub-committee. If I am a criminal, then those who signed the papers, those who attended the committee meetings, are all criminals,” Bhujbal said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that there was no political vendetta in the FIR filed against Bhujbal in connection with the scam. “An FIR has been filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the raids are part of the investigation. The probe is being monitored by the High Court and hence there is no question of political interference. There is no political vendetta,” Fadnavis asserted.
NCP, too, cries political vendetta: The Nationalist Congress Party, too, rallied behind the Bhujbals and said the party would challenge these actions in the court of law. NCP spokesman Nawab Malik rejected the Chief Minister’s statement and said, “The government is going all out to prove the baseless corruption charges levelled against our leaders. Fadnavis was part of the brigade that ran the malicious campaign when in opposition. Now, the present government is using the power in its hands to go after our leaders.” “But, we will fight all charges legally and politically,” he said.
Others in net, too: Somaiya
Reiterating the corruption allegations against Bhujbal, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya said there is ample evidence against the OBC leader to send him to jail. “I will meet Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials in Delhi tomorrow and ask them to initiate investigation into the overseas links, too,” said Somaiya. He also said that the ACB had told the High Court that they would complete the investigations in the irrigation scam within 3 months. “This means whatever is happening to Bhujbal now would happen to Tatkare within 3 months,” Somaiya said.