NCP chief and former Union minister Sharad Pawar on Sunday said that Maharashtra was witnessing an unprecedented degree of misuse of investigating agencies at the hands of state and central governments to coerce leaders from opposition parties to join the BJP ahead of the state elections.
“Misuse of power is rife in the entire country by the BJP government. We have recently seen what happened in Karnataka. They are also trying to do the same in Madhya Pradesh. In poll-bound states like Maharashtra, they are trying to coerce leaders from opposition parties to join them by using state agencies. I haven’t seen such blatant use of state machinery by any government. The misuse is of extreme level,” Pawar said at a press conference in Pune.
Pawar’s statement comes in the backdrop of several senior NCP leaders, including Mumbai unit chief Sachin Ahir and women’s wing chief Chitra Wagh, quitting the party in the last few days to join either BJP or Shiv Sena.
BJP’s attention more on NCP than Cong
In Maharashtra, it is the NCP, more than the Congress, which has been at the receiving end of BJP’s political attention. During the Lok Sabha elections, BJP had made no secret of its desire to defeat the NCP in the strongholds of Sharad Pawar, including in Baramati. It did not succeed. NCP managed to hold on to Baramati, and three more seats. But the party has seen major setbacks in the last few days, with important leaders deserting it. Sitting MLA Hasan Mushrif, who was raided last week, is known to be quite close to the Pawars.
In Maharashtra, Pawar said, the BJP — besides using central government agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and state agencies such as Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) — has also used the state co-operatiave bank to lure leaders from rival parties by unlawfully providing financial aid to the co-operative bodies they are heading. “The sugar mill of (former MLA) Kalyan Kale in Pandharpur was in a difficult situation. The state government, by flouting norms, gave Rs 30-35 crore to it and asked him to join the BJP. Since he wanted to save his factory, he switched over,” Pawar said.
He also alleged that instead of performing their duties, the Chief Minister and a few other ministers “have dedicated themselves for this job”.
Reacting to Pawar’s allegations, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday called it baseless. “It is high time Pawar does some introspection to find why the exodus is taking place from his organisation. Why the NCP has failed to keep its own house in order and inculcate confidence in its leaders and workers?” Fadnavis told reporters in Mumbai.
The chief minister said the BJP was on a strong footing and did not need to indulge in any poaching of outsiders. “To the contrary a large number of leaders from Congress and NCP, including sitting MLAs, are keen to join BJP . But BJP is certainly not going to induct everyone. Those with tainted image or facing charges in cases under probe with the directorate of economic offences will not be taken. The BJP is now in a commanding position on its own electoral merit and people support. It does not need people from outside whose credentials are questionable. The BJP will certainly scrutinise individuals before they join the party,” he said.
Pawar also cited the examples of party leaders Chhagan Bhujbal, who is being investigated for an alleged scam in construction of Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi; Hassan Mushrif, who faced an ED raid last week; and Chitra Wagh, whose husband, Pawar alleged, was being slammed with cases by the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau and was being constantly harassed. Of the three, Wagh joined the BJP two days ago, speculations about Bhujbal’s return to Sena are rife while Mushrif has made it clear that “despite harassment and offers from BJP” he will remain with the NCP.
Pawar said that while BJP leaders at the Centre kept saying that they were for ‘stable governments’ and they respect all political parties, the “government is trying to sabotage the states where people decreed against the BJP”.
“BJP is destabilising the governments by using power and machinery in the states where it was rejected by the voters. This is an assault on the parliamentary democracy,” said Pawar.
The NCP chief said it was not the first time he had faced a situation like that and that he would face the upcoming assembly elections by inducting more youth workers in the party.
“I condemn the BJP’s politics but I’m not discouraged and dispirited. This will enthuse our workers to fight even harder and we will face the upcoming elections with a next-generation leadership,” said Pawar.
(With inputs from ENS Mumbai)