Maha DCM Ajit Pawar
Maha DCM Ajit Pawar
Photo Credit: Twitter/@AjitPawarSpeaks

Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Thursday said that strict action will be taken against former AMU student leader Sharjeel Usmani, accused of hurting religious sentiments with his comments made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune, following a probe.

Speaking in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Pawar, while referring to a "so-called journalist", also said that there is no reason to back anyone who poses a threat to national security. Although Pawar did not name anyone, he was apparently referring to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami.

Opposition parties like the Congress had last month charged Goswami with "leaking" information related to national security afterpurported WhatsApp chats between him and ex- Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) head Partho Dasgupta in connection with the Balakot air strike went viral on social media. The Maharashtra BJP has been demanding strict action against Sharjeel Usmani for his comments made at the Elgar Parishad in January this year.

"Strict action will be taken against Sharjeel Usmani and those who have committed crime, after probe. Nobody will be spared. You also should not have two positions on the country and state's social security," he said, without naming any party. Pawar further said, "Allegations were levelled against a so-called journalist. He was also arrested on the charges of abetting suicide. There are allegations of disclosing serious and confidential information regarding the countrys security on WhatsApp. This journalist had expressed joy after the country's soldiers were martyred in the Pulwama terror attack."

"When this journalist, who had posed threat to the country's and social security, was arrested in connection with some other offence, several people opposed his arrest. Some of us (legislature members) even staged hunger strike outside Mantralaya. There were less number of people at the hunger strike. But such agitations were also staged," he added. Maharashtra BJP MLA Ram Kadam and three others were detained in November last year for protesting outside Mantralaya (the state secretariat) without taking permission from authorities.

The protest outside Mantralaya in south Mumbai was held to denounce Goswami's arrest in a 2018 abetment to suicide case by the Raigad police. "There is no reason to back anyone who poses a threat to national security. We all should take sensible positions on such issues. This is my clear view and it is the view of our Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) too," Pawar added.

During his address, Pawar also said that the MVA government - of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress - is committed to all-round development of Maharashtra, and assured that there will be no injustice meted to any of the state's regions in allocation of development funds. Pawar, who is scheduled to present the budget on March 8, also said that the state is faced with a revenue shortfall of Rs 1 lakh crore as per the information he took on February 28.

"I will talk about it on the day of the budget too. The revenue has been less by Rs 1 lakh crore than what we had estimated," he added. Pawar, who handles the finance portfolio, said the government did not slash fund allocations for key departments like public health, medical education, police and food and civil supplies during the COVID-19 crisis.

"The state government took an important decision of reducing stamp duty to give momentum to the state's economy and revive the construction sector...This helped realise the commoners' dream of buying homes," he added. Stating that the threat of COVID-19 still persists, Pawar urged the people to maintain proper physical distance, wear masks and wash hands regularly.

He asked the opposition parties to cooperate with the government in the fight against coronavirus. Pawar added that the Centre is yet to give the GST dues of Rs 32,000 crore to Maharashtra, and expressed hope that it will clear the same immediately. Leader of the Opposition in Legislative Council Pravin Darekar congratulated the deputy chief minister for giving detailed replies to questions raised by the members of the House.

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