Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases against Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and others, may have proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Maharashtra Opposition on poll-eve.
Initially flabbergasted, the fumbling Opposition parties suddenly crackled to life after Pawar, 78, announced plans to put up a spirited fight by going suo moto to the ED office on Friday. ED was left to explain late on Wednesday that no summons were served to the senior NCP leader - who volunteered to drop by the ED office to experience its 'hospitality' at 2 p.m. on September 27.
Incidentally, Pawar's close friend and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray had spent a day out - inside the ED office Â- on August 22. All Opposition parties have declared that they are firmly behind Pawar in this crisis and the people of the state will "give a fitting reply" to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine in the state and centre.
"This is sheer vendetta politics of the ruling alliance. They are trying to scare and crush the opposition all over the country with such fabricated cases against them," AICC Secretary Sanjay Dutt told IANS. He warned that the ED action would backfire on the BJP-Sena and instead stimulate a massive sympathy wave in favour of the Opposition in the October 21 assembly elections.
NCP National Secretary Jitendra Awhad said that the ED action shows the "desperation" of the alarmed BJP-Sena to stick to power at any cost in order to hide their failures. "What are their achievements in over five years of rule now? They have jailed Congress' senior leader P. Chidambaram in jail, now they are targeting the Pawars. The BJP-Sena forget that the people of the country are silently watching and understand all their machinations," Awhad told IANS.
Samajwadi Party state President Abu Asim Azmi said the BJP-Sena, by raking up so-called corruption cases coinciding with elections, are trying to create an impression that they are 'clean and honest'. "The BJP-Sena are worried over the massive response Pawar Saheb's rallies have been getting. That's why this conspiracy was hatched. This case is supposed to be over 10 years old. Why they kept quiet all these years and woke up before elections?" a fuming Azmi told IANS.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) President Raju Shetti said "it is laughable" that instead of catching the loan defaulters, the ED is going after persons like Pawars and others who had no connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank when the so-called scam took place.
"Nearly 75 per cent of those who have taken away the MSCB's monies are now with the BJP-Sena. If the ED claims to be impartial and not working under the government's directions, they should first catch those who siphoned off the bank's funds and now sitting cosy in the ruling party," Shetti demanded.
However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has categorically ruled out any interference by the government pointing out that the investigations agencies are working independently and following court orders. All the leaders dismissed contentions that the ED move would break the opposition unity, but all Opposition parties will now fight the elections "with greater determination" to dislodge the BJP-Sena.
Dutt and Awhad claim "there is a silent revolution" building up and the people of the state will show their mood in the Oct. 21 elections Â- and show the place to the BJP-Sena. A section of the NCP is already goading Pawar to contest the Satara Lok Sabha by-election this month to reinforce his popularity after over five decades of public life.
(By Quaid Najmi)