Mumbai: NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had declared that he would go to the Enforcement Directorate office Friday in what was seen as a dare after being named in a money laundering case, cancelled his visit citing law and order situation in Mumbai.
Police had imposed prohibitory orders outside the Enforcement Directorate's office here ahead of NCP chief Sharad Pawar's planned visit to the agency office on Friday, while the opposition party claimed police have started detaining its workers.
A large number of police personnel have been deployed and roads leading to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office at Ballard Pier of South Mumbai have been closed in view of Pawars visit, police said on Friday morning. Heavy deployment of police and security forces was also seen outside Pawar's residence ahead of police commissioner's visit Friday afternoon. According to reports, several NCP leaders have been detained from Khargar and Naka.
Joint CP Vinay Choubey and a team of police officers arrived at Pawar's residence in the morning with sniffer dog. "We are well equipped to take care of any eventuality. Section 144 is in place in whole area. We have taken sufficient precautions," DCP Sangram Singh Nishandar said.
After holding talks with the Commissioner, Pawar said, "I wanted to visit the ED and ask them why I have been named in the FIR. But the commissioner requested me not to go. Considering the law and order situation, I have decided to cancel my plan."
NCP leader Nawab Malik had told media that the ED sent an e-mail directing Pawar to not visit the office. "They said that when required, the ED will intimate him. However, Sharad Pawar is firm on visiting the office," he said.
The former Union minister, named in a money-laundering case by the ED in connection with a scam at Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, has said he will visit the ED office at Ballard Pier in South Mumbai even though it has not summoned him yet.
"Honourable @PawarSpeaks Saheb will visit ED office at 2 pm. Workers will be present in big number in his support. "But the police started detaining workers since yesterday night. We are people who believe in law and order. "This suppression is not right. Condemnation!" NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik tweeted.
NCP workers had staged protests in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra when the ED named Pawar in the case earlier this week. Anticipating similar protests on Friday, orders prohibiting movement of groups of people under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been imposed outside the ED office, a police official said on Thursday night.
A late Thursday night communication from the police said prohibitory orders have also been imposed under the jurisdictions of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Marine Drive, Dongri, Azad Maidan, J J Marg and MRA Marg police stations in South Mumbai. Pawar appealed to party workers not to gather outside the ED office.
Senior NCP leader and former minster Jitendra Awhad, however, rejected Pawar's plea, saying "We are sorry, we won't listen to you this time."
माफ करा साहेब ह्या वेळेस पहिल्यांदा आम्ही तुमचे नाही ऐकणार... तुमच्या महाराष्ट्र घडवताना च्या वेदना आम्ही बघितल्या आहेत कर्क रोग मांडी च्या हाडाचे ऑपरेशनपायाला झालेली इजा तरी तुम्ही लढताय वय वर्ष 79 हे सगळे तुम्ही आमच्या साठी सोसलय उद्या साठी माफ करा @PawarSpeaks pic.twitter.com/EvBxyZ3zjR— Dr.Jitendra Awhad (@Awhadspeaks) September 26, 2019
Reacting to the development, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that "Pawar is the latest Opposition leader to be targeted by a vindictive government".
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. https://t.co/XCW0GsdXjj— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 27, 2019
Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party was trying to malign leaders' image ahead of Maharashtra polls. "Sharad Pawar is a known leader, and if he himself is ready to join the probe, it is clear that BJP is trying to malign the image of people before the upcoming elections. BJP is trying to weaken the political parties and their leaders. We have seen what BJP has done with TMC, Congress, TDP, SP and others," he said.
Another grand old party leader, Sanjay Jha, said that the "BJP-Shiv Sena have insulted Hemant Karkare and now they are humiliating Sharad Pawar".
Dear Mumbai/Maharashtra The BJP-Shiv Sena have insulted Hemant KarkareNow they are humiliating Sharad Pawar.Where is the Babasaheb Ambedkar statue? On October 21st, remember that!— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) September 27, 2019
BJP's ally Shiv Sena too backed the NCP chief. "People do not believe on the charges leveled against him. They have faith in Pawar. There is no proof against him," said Sanjay Raut.
Social activist Anna Hazare also expressed surprise over NCP president's name cropping up in the multi-crore Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank scam. "When this case came to me, Sharad Pawar's name was not there anywhere. How did his name crop up, who mentioned his name, all these things only they know," said Hazare.
Some key routes in the area like S S Ram Ghulam Road, Karimbhoy Road and J N Hardiya Road have been closed for traffic, an official said. However, vehicles of VIPs and emergency services will be allowed on these roads, he said, adding parking has been prohibited in the area for the day.
All precautionary measures have been taken to maintain law and order and avoid any untoward incident, the official said. The NCPs state office is situated near the ED premises and there is a possibility that a large number of party supporters may gather in the area, he said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil and party general secretary Jitendra Awhad reached Pawar's residence here ahead of the veteran leader's visit to the ED office later in the day. The NCP patriarch has already said he would "voluntarily" visit the ED office and co-operate with the probe agency given his faith in the Constitution.
The ED has filed the money-laundering case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar, a former deputy chief minister, and others in connection with the scam. The veteran leader has been maintaining he was not associated with the bank in any capacity and questioned the timing of the registration of the case which comes just weeks ahead of the October 21 Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
An Enforcement Case Information Report, equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named former chairmen of the bank, Ajit Pawar, and 70 erstwhile functionaries of the cooperative lender. The NCP has termed the ED case as politically motivated.
(With PTI inputs)