Maratha strongman to visit ED office of his own free will; NCP workers to flock to Mumbai in show of solidarity

Mumbai: Enforcement Directorate (ED) notice to Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam, has rekindled the 'Maharashtra vs. Centre' spat.

After news of the ED notice was leaked to the media at New Delhi, the Maratha strongman of Indian politics put on his bravest show. Though he is yet to receive any notice or summons, of his own free will, he has decided to pay the ED a visit on Friday, at 2 PM.

The ED has filed a money laundering case against Pawar and others in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam case.

Hinting at a spirited fight, the former Union agriculture minister said 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)".

Since the time of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Maharashtra has been at loggerheads with the rulers in Delhi. Even after Independence, it used to be said that the political rulers of New Delhi did not respect Maharashtra and its leaders. Maharashtrians are proud of having always fought or challenged the 'throne' of New Delhi. Pawar has tried to tap into this very sentiment.

Workers of the Nationalist Congress Party protested in front of the ED office in Mumbai on Wednesday. Protests were also held elsewhere in the state. September 27 seems to be the litmus test for the NCP as well as the government.

The NCP has decided to use Pawar's visit as an event to showcase their strength and has called out to its workers across the state to reach Mumbai on this day and march alongside their boss, to the ED office.

“It’s a full-toss and that, too, on the last ball of the match. We are going to hit it out of the stadium. Pawarsahab won’t mind even courting arrest on Friday. Now the entire election will revolve around Sharad Pawar,” a senior NCP leader said on condition of anonymity.

The ED move in naming Sharad Pawar in their 'FIR' has upset all leaders, especially those from the Maratha and Other Backward Class. Eknath Khadse, a prominent OBC leader, who has strained relations with Fadnavis, expressed surprise over the ED action.

"I had followed up the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank corruption case when I was the Leader of Opposition in the legislative assembly. I have raised my voice several times but I can state that Pawar's name was nowhere in the entire case.

I wonder how his name got dragged into it,’’ he told reporters in his home district Jalgaon. Khadse's statement is being seen as a major embarrassment for the ruling BJP.

The ED has filed a money laundering case against Pawar and others in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam case. An

The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named former chairmen of the bank, Ajit Pawar, and 70 former functionaries of the cooperative bank.

Pawar is the second prominent politician from the state to face an ED probe. On August 22, MNS chief Raj Thackeray was grilled by the agency in a money-laundering case.

"I will be mostly out of Mumbai, for the assembly poll campaign. The ED officials shouldn't misconstrue my absence as my being unavailable or untraceable. I will go to the agency's office in Mumbai on September 27 and give them whatever information they want," Pawar told reporters.

Pawar blames Vendetta politics: Asked if he smelt vendetta politics behind the ED's action, the veteran leader noted the move comes just after the announcement of the assembly poll.

"This development (ED action) has taken place just when the election is round the corner. People understand what this means," the NCP patriarch said.

"I have never been a member of director of this bank. I always tried to help institutes in the state, including the bank, whenever they face any problem," he added.

"The board of directors, which included 50 people, was elected unanimously. Leaders from all parties were directors. The BJP's late minister Pandurang Fundkar, Sarkar Rawal, father of Jitendra Rawal and the Shiv Sena leader and former Member of Parliament Anandrao Adsul were directors of this bank. These directors worked in their independent capacities and not as leaders of any party," he said.

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