Days ahead of Maharashtra assembly elections, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a case against the NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and others in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam case on Tuesday. Officials said that an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR. The FIR had named former chairmen of the bank, ex-deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar and 70 former functionaries of the cooperative bank. However, some reports have said that Sharad Pawar was not named in the initial FIR by the Mumbai Police.
Responding to the development, Pawar has said that he is not surprised. In a rather sarcastic tone, Pawar thanked the central agency for naming him in the case. He claimed that the move has been taken after seeing the response of people during his rallies. Speaking to reporters, Pawar said: "I thank the probe agencies because they have involved my name in a case relating to such a bank of which I am not even a member of, I was not involved in its decision-making. If they have filed a case against me too, I welcome it. I would have been surprised had such action not been taken against me after the kind of response I receive during my visits to various districts of the state," Sharad Pawar added.
Sharad Pawar, who initially appeared clueless about his name figuring in the ED's case, said that he has not received any notice yet. The NCP dismissed it as a politically motivated case. "This is a politically motivated move, aimed at defaming opposition leaders ahead of the polls," NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged. Another NCP leader, Dhananjay Munde, criticised the move and said that efforts were being made to bedevil Sharad Pawar given the "huge" response he was receiving in the poll-bound state and the same had made the ruling BJP "fidgety".
The Maharashtra Congress, too, hit out at the Modi government. It said that the ED is being used to suppress opposition leaders to ensure the "totalitarian" regime of the BJP. "The ED is being used to suppress leaders in the opposition. It is clear it is being done to bring the totalitarian rule of the BJP," it said. "This establishes the autocracy has arrived in the country," Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant added.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra unit of the ruling BJP, however, justified the ED action. The state BJP unit said that it took the steps as per rules and procedures. Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande pitched for a probe into the matter (MSCB scam) to give justice to the people and called for punishing the guilty. "Common people deposit money in co-operative banks. This matter should be probed. Action should be taken against whoever is guilty irrespective of the parties they belong to," Kayande said.