NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday claimed the Enforcement Directorate’s actions against various Maharashtra leaders were an attempt to encroach on the state government’s rights and discourage political opponents.
Notably, the ED is conducting a probe into separate money laundering cases against former state home minister and Anil Deshmukh, NCP leader Eknath Khadse. The central agency last week also conducted raids at multiple premises in Maharashtra linked to Shiv Sena MP Bhavana Gawali in connection with a money laundering case.
The NCP shares power with the Shiv Sena and Congress in Maharashtra.
Talking to reporters in Pune, Mr Pawar said, “Never heard of so many ED’s actions in Maharashtra in the past. One action is going on against (Eknath) Khadse, another against Anil Deshmukh, also against Bhawna Gawali. There is an attempt to encroach upon the state government’s rights case and discourage the opponents by using these agencies as tools.”
To a question on the ED’s raids at premises linked to Bhavana Gawali, Mr Pawar said the issue is about educational institutions.
“When there are allegations against these kind of institutions, the complaints can be lodged before the charity commissioner. If not the charity commissioner, then there are state government agencies, but here directly the ED was involved,” the former Union minister said.
Asked about the possibility of a third COVID-19 wave, Mr Pawar said, “I have seen many events happening where the (COVID-19 prevention) protocols are not being followed.”
Mr Pawar said since Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has asked political parties to immediately stop agitations, meetings and other events to avoid crowding, he will not attend programmes involving large gatherings.
“I will only attend programmes organised indoors with a limited number of people,” he said.
To a question on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments that Hindus and Muslims share the same ancestry, Mr Pawar quipped, “This is an addition to my knowledge.”
Mr Pawar also expressed reservations over the Reserve Bank of India’s interference into the cooperative sector.
“The cooperative lenders spread the banking sector to the grass-root level. These banks help many people in case of financial needs. The merger and closure of cooperative banks is not only harmful for the cooperative sector, but also for the common people who have been benefiting from it,” he said.
While, earlier there was greater autonomy to select a cooperative bank’s chairman, now these institutions will have to go to the RBI for it.
Mr Pawar said “this has weakened the cooperative sector”.