MUMBAI: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar skipped the visit to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer in South Mumbai on Friday. He announced before the media at his residence that he has changed his plan after senior police officials apprised him of their fears of a probable escalation of law and order situation in the city as well as parts of the state if he visits the ED office.
He also thanked former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Shiv Sena for extending support to him.
“I’ve been wrongly accused in the case and hence I had offered to go to ED office. However, after the senior police officials appraised me of the situation, I, as a responsible citizen, have decided not to visit the ED office today,” Pawar said.
“I have no role in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSC Bank) scam. I had never been, in my life, a director, or even a member of the bank. I was never involved in its decision-making. Hence, when I heard of the ED case I announced that I shall visit their office,” Pawar said.
Earlier in the day, NCP Mumbai president Nawab Malik said that the ED had sent an email to Pawar in response to his letter and told him there was no need for him to visit their office and they would inform him when his presence would be required to take the investigation in the case forward.
The Mumbai police had imposed prohibitory orders in areas of seven police stations in South Mumbai since last night. They had also put barricades on roads leading to the ED office in Ballard Pier area of the city and closed it down. Pawar had appealed his workers not to gather at the state party headquarters, which is just a lane away from the ED office. However, several of the other leaders appealed party workers to reach South Mumbai to “protest” the “excesses of the administration”. While some party workers managed to reach the party officer and staged demonstrations there, other on the way caused heavy traffic jams at several places.
Some of the party workers were even detained at the Kharghar toll plaza in Navi Mumbai on Mumbai-Pune highway. Senior police officials approached Pawar twice during the day. However, he took decision just minutes before his scheduled time within few minutes after the city police commissioner Sanjay Barve called on him at his residence.
The ED on Monday registered a case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit and over 70 others in connection with over Rs 25,000 crore scam in the MSC bank. While Pawar maintained, since beginning, that he has no role in the case, he avoided speaking about charges on his nephew and most of the others who belong to the NCP.
Several people, including BJP leader Eknath Khadse had said that Pawar has no role in the case. Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare too on Thursday made it clear that though he had been following up the scam for a long time, he had never came across any evidences indicating Pawar’s role in it.
"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," Gandhi said on Twitter.
NCP workers had staged protests in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra when the ED named Pawar in the case earlier this week.
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.
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)