I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED: Delhi capitulates, Pawar cancels ED office visit after police commissioner and joint commissioner descend on his residence and request him not to do so
Mumbai: After the news of the ED notice, which has named Sharad Pawar in the Rs 25,000-crore Maharashtra Co-operative Bank scam, surfaced, the Nationalist Congress Party chief had invoked the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and vowed that Maharashtra would never bow down to Delhi. On Friday, Delhi had to capitulate.
Pawar's determined stand, public outcry and his fiercely loyal band of NCP workers all combined to create the perfect build-up to his rendezvous with the enforcement agency.
As he had anticipated, the ED and the government went on the backfoot and dispatched the Mumbai police commissioner and the joint commissioner to Silver Oak, Pawar's residence in Mumbai, urging him not to visit the ED office, as he had threatened, and he agreed.
The anxiety of the authorities was palpable because on Friday Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were also in town, for various events.
Panicking at the possibility of chaos being ignited by Pawar's impending visit to its office, the ED emailed Pawar late on Thursday, telling him clearly, it was not going to question him now and would summon him in the future, if needed.
Buoyed by the message, the NCP further raised its pitch. Both the party and its chief were determined to go ahead with their schedule.
Silver Oak, Pawar's home on Bhulabhai Desai Road, became the epicentre of political activity, with a steady stream of NCP leaders calling on their boss on Friday morning.
Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil, the party's state president Jayant Patil, Mumbai president Nawab Mallik, leader of the opposition Dhananjay Munde, legislator Jitendra Awhad dropped in, around 8am. Rohit Pawar, the grandnephew of Pawar and the GenNext leader of the family was also present.
They discussed the preparations for Pawar's visit. Even as these discussions were in progress, NCP workers began reaching Mumbai, where the party headquarters are located, in Ballard Estate.
The flood of workers reaching Mumbai was a clear signal that Pawar's proposed visit could pose a serious law and order problem. Sensing this, the state government reconsidered the situation, after asserting on Thursday that it was well-prepared.
The state government sent Deputy Commissioner of Police (law and order) Vinay Chaube to Pawar's residence around 10am. He requested Pawar to cancel his visit to the ED office as this would create a law and order problem.
But Pawar and the NCP were set on going ahead. They were joined by the Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi, Congress leader Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar and NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Vidya Chavan. This show of support from key parties put further pressure on the state government.
The police apprehended a showdown with Pawar supporters. The high-decibel sloganeering in front of the NCP HQ had reached Ballard Estate and the adjacent ED office.
This time, the state government deputed Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve to meet Pawar. Barve, accompanied by Chaube, reached Pawar's residence around 1pm, as Pawar was expected to set off for the ED office around 1.20pm.
Barve urged Pawar to cooperate with the police and maintain peace. Reportedly, Pawar did not promise him anything. After leaving Silver Oak, Pawar held another meeting with his colleagues before deciding to accede to the request of the state government.
He then addressed the media, informing them he had decided to drop his plan of visiting the ED office. He then left for Pune with Jayant Patil, to review the flood situation there.
"I have cancelled my plan to go there (ED office), as of now. I am ready to go there when required. We work in politics. But if they try to scare us through agencies, they will not succeed," was his parting salvo.
"Our impression is, the decision was taken to malign the image of heads of opposition parties at a particular time (during poll time). So, I wanted to visit the ED office. I had also conveyed the decision to visit the office in writing.
I got a reply to this yesterday (Thursday). It said I have not been summoned, that I need not visit the office now, that I will be informed about the visit, whenever required.
But I have worked as chief minister and home minister in the state and I am aware of how the common man is inconvenienced by such gatherings. Therefore, I have decided not to visit the ED office and cooperate with the police," he announced.
Pawar thanked leaders who supported him. "Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and other senior national leaders and the Shiv Sena, too supported me, I thank them," he said.
Gandhi had slammed the Modi government for 'targeting' Pawar ahead of the Maharashtra poll. "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," Gandhi said on Twitter.
The Maratha strongman had questioned the timing of the ED case, which came just weeks ahead of the October 21 assembly polls in Maharashtra.