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Monday, June 27, 2022

Newsmaker | Latest in ED net, Anil Parab is quiet, key cog in Sena machine; Uddhav confidant

Parab acts as bridge between old guard and new generation; raids a problem for party ahead of Mumbai civic polls

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai |
Updated: May 27, 2022 8:00:39 am
Anil Parab is a known confidant of Uddhav Thackeray and among the Shiv Sena’s key strategists for the coming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls. (Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)

Maharashtra Transport Minister Anil Parab is a known confidant of Uddhav Thackeray and among the Shiv Sena’s key strategists for the coming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls. For the party, Parab functions as a bridge between the party’s old guard and the new generation of Shiv Sainiks and his ability to coordinate between the two has earned praise from both the chief minister and his son, and state minister, Aaditya Thackeray.

The Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) raids on Thursday at premises directly or indirectly connected to Parab have thrown a spanner in the works for the Sena ahead of the civic elections, bringing the focus on the issue of corruption. Parab had appeared before the central agency last September in connection with a bribery and money laundering case linked to former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. The minister’s name also cropped up when former Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze accused Parab of receiving kickbacks worth crores for the transfer of 10 police officers. The minister has been under the scanner after Waze, in a letter he tried to submit to a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, claimed that Parab had asked him to extort Rs 50 crore from a private trust. Waze also alleged that Parab told him to look into an inquiry against the fraudulent contractors listed in the BMC and asked him to collect “at least Rs 2 crore” from about 50 such contractors. The 56-year-old minister has denied all the allegations.

Last year, the Sena leader had dropped minister Sanjay Rathod from the Cabinet over the death by suicide of a 22-year-old woman, a TikTok artist, in Pune. But given Parab’s importance to the Thackerays — according to insiders, about six senior leaders who had worked with party founder Bal Thackeray were relegated to the margins to elevate the minister — that fate is unlikely to befall him at the moment. On Thursday, the party closed ranks to defend the minister. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut dismissed the raids as “politics of vengeance”. He added, “The central agencies’ action is driven by the BJP. It is to malign the Shiv Sena’s image. But, the Sena will not buckle under pressure.”

“If we look at Parab’s political graph, he has gradually risen up the political ladder,” a senior Sena leader said on the condition of anonymity. “A low profile, always in the background, he suddenly became the most powerful face in the Sena-led coalition. It caused heartburn for several seniors who were vying for the prime Cabinet post and position in government and party. If the charges against him are substantiated and he is arrested, it will dent the image of the party and the government. Uddhav ji will defend him up to a point — till, he is not guilty.”

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The Sena was also quick to point out how the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), one of its allies in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, had retained Nawab Malik in the Cabinet despite his imprisonment in a case of alleged money laundering and land deals with the underworld. The NCP, however, dropped Anil Deshmukh from the Cabinet last year after senior IPS officer Parambir Singh accused him of getting police officials to collect money from bars and hotels. Deshmukh, who has denied the charges, is in prison at the moment.

Officials of Enforcement Directorate (ED) leave after conducting a raid at a property belonging to Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab in connection with a money laundering case, at Bandra in Mumbai. (PTI)

BJP on the offensive

The raids against Parab have boosted the BJP’s campaign to expose alleged corruption by its former ally.

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Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who is seen as Thackeray’s bête noire and was himself accused of corruption last month, said, “Anil Parab should keep the bags ready to go to jail. He cannot evade prison. He has blatantly engaged in corruption and the charges against him are serious.”

He added, “The Shiv Sena leadership knows about every wrongdoing of Parab. Yet, it rewarded him with a plum Cabinet post. Without the blessings of the top leadership, Parab would not have become such a powerful leader in the party.”

Asked about the ED raids, state BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate function independently. They have autonomous status. They operate as per their norms. It has nothing to do with politics. I would not like to say anything beyond this on its functioning.”

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