ACB raids on NCP's Chhagan Bhujbal: Is he just a fall guy for Ajit Pawar?
Political analysts believe that Bhujbal has been targeted by the BJP-led government for various political reasons
Mumbai: On Tuesday, the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the state police conducted searches at various properties belonging to senior NCP leader and former cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his family members in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Nashik and Pune. And things may be about to get worse for the former Public Works Department minister.
In a statement, ACB said that there were seven properties in Mumbai, two in Thane, five in Nashik and two in Pune and the searches at these places were conducted to ascertain the assets owned by Chhagan Bhujbal, his son, MLA Pankaj Bhujbal and nephew Samir Bhujbal.
In last week, two FIRs have been registered against Bhujbal by the ACB. The cases are related to alleged irregularities in construction of a central library in Kalina in Mumbai and construction of the new state guest house, Maharashtra Sadan, in New Delhi.
The NCP has rallied behind Bhujbal and has alleged vendetta politics.
"This is nothing but political vendetta. The court has ordered the state to probe allegations but it did not ask to register FIRs. So, it is an attempt to tarnish the images of the NCP leaders and to silence our leaders. We will fight the battle in court,” Nawab Malik, NCP’s national spokesperson, said.
However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has denied the charge.
An FIR has been filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the raids are part of the investigation. The probe is monitored by the High Court and hence, there is no question of political interference, he said.
Political analysts believe that Bhujbal has been targeted by the BJP-led government for various political reasons and doubt whether there is adequate evidence to secure a conviction.
"During the election campaigning, it had promised action against all the corrupt NCP leaders. Even, Modi had termed the NCP as Naturally Corrupt Party. So, by acting against Bhujbal, BJP is trying to show that it is fulfilling the promise made to the people," Prakash Bal, a political analyst, said
"After Bhujbal, BJP government may train guns on senior NCP leaders Sunil Tatkare and Ajit Pawar in irrigation scam to keep the issue alive,” he said.
He pointed out that nobody is talking about the NCP in Bhujbal cases.
"Everyone is talking about Bhujbal and not the NCP. In the past, for 2G scam, coal scam and other scams, everyone attacked the Congress which is not the case with Bhujbal. It seems that Bhujbal is being targeted to save senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar,” he said.
Incidentally, not a single minister has been convicted in court on corruption charges in Maharashtra over the last two decades.
While Bhujbal was summoned to the ACB office to record his statement, the agency granted special privileges to Ajit Pawar, who is allegedly involved in multi-crore irrigation scam, by not summoning him to ACB office. It has sent a questionnaire to Pawar on multi-crore irrigation scandal, and allowed him to answer it in the comfort of his home.
Political observers also hint at a deal struck between BJP and NCP. The NCP had earlier offered outside support to BJP to form the government in Maharashtra and backed the party during the crucial trust vote in legislative assembly.
NCP leaders also point out to the equations between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"So, NCP can wriggle out of this at any time. Considering equations between and Pawar and Modi, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will not do anything against Modi’s wishes. As far as action against Bhujbal is concerned, Pawar has been keeping a distance with him for the last past couple of years,” said a NCP leader.
He also pointed to Pawar’s remarks about snap polls in Maharashtra before the Mumbai civic body’s elections.
"If the state government decides to touch Ajit Pawar, then NCP chief can go to any extent to save him. He may also force Shiv Sena to leave the government,” he said. The leader pointed to the fact that Pawar has held many strings of power since 1977 and always has an upper hand in Maharashtra irrespective of who is ruling in the state.
A BJP leader claimed that Bhujbal may also have been targeted to increase the standing of BJP cabinet minister Pankaja Munde, daughter of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, in the OBC community in Maharashtra. Bhujbal has been a prominent leader of OBCs in Maharashtra and has a strong mass base.
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