In the backdrop of the battleground scenario currently prevailing in Parliament, with the ruling and opposition parties pitted against each other, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday led a scathing attack against the Centre, accusing it of steamrolling the Opposition.
He also accused the ruling BJP of pursuing an agenda against political opponents by serving them tax notices. Pawar revealed that he had received a notice from the income tax department after Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, his son and Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray and NCP MP Supriya Sule (Pawar's daughter) had also received notices over poll affidavits submitted to the Election Commission.
"They love some people," said Pawar, apparently referring to the government. ‘’I got the notice yesterday (Tuesday). We will reply to the notice,’’ he added.
The veteran leader told the media the I-T department had sought clarifications and explanations on the poll affidavits filed by him in the 2009 Lok Sabha, 2014 and 2020 Rajya Sabha elections. He added that they were asking Supriya about her last three poll affidavits. The timing of the income-tax notices to state leaders had coincided with the Centre’s move to seek the passage of key bills, including three farmers' bills.
Pawar, who was absent when the two farmers' bills were passed on Sunday, observed a day-long fast on Wednesday to protest the suspension of the eight Rajya Sabha members of the Upper House. He bemoaned the conduct of Deputy Chairman Harivansh and the Modi government's decision to 'bulldoze' the Opposition in the House. Pawar's fast came on the heels of Harivansh's announcement of going on a 24-hour long fast to express his deep anguish and pain at opposition members’ appalling conduct towards him.
Pawar said the farm bills were to be discussed in the Upper House. ‘‘Members had questions regarding the bill, but prima facie, it seems like they did not want a discussion. They wanted to know which rule was being applied by the deputy chairman,’’ he added. Pawar said the eight MPs were expelled for expressing their opinion and added that the deputy chairman did not give priority to House rules.
“When members did not get a response, they came into the well. I have never seen bills being passed like this. There was a voice vote to pass the bill and the reaction to that was there,” said Pawar. ‘‘I have been in the state legislature and in Parliament for over 50 years but never seen bills being passed in this manner,’’ he noted, taking serious objection to it.
‘‘I heard on TV that the deputy chairman offered them (the suspended members) tea. I am happy that the members rejected it and continued their fast (protest). It’s being said that it was some kind of Gandhigiri. But I have never seen such an insult of Gandhi’s ideology before this,’’ Pawar said.
Pawar questioned the Centre’s ban on onion export. ‘‘If this government talks about no restrictions on farm products, then how can it ban onion export? It sends a wrong signal in the world, as India has been a leading onion exporter,’’ he noted.
He explained the reason for his absence in the Rajya Sabha when two farmers’ bills were passed on Sunday. ‘‘I was in Mumbai to have a crucial discussion on the Maratha reservation. It was important that the state government files an appeal in the Supreme Court, with a plea to vacate the interim stay granted on the Maratha quota. It was filed on Monday.’’ He further said that it was clear that the Maharashtra government wanted the reservation granted to the Maratha community under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018, be restored at the earliest.
Pawar also made light of reports about moves to impose President’s rule in Maharashtra. “Is there any reason for (imposing the President's rule)? Is President’s rule some joke? The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi combine enjoys a clear majority in Maharashtra Assembly,’’ he observed.