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ED Raids: Sena Will Take It On The Chin

May 28, 2022 11:14 IST
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'With each ED, CBI raid on us the BJP thinks we will soften down.'
'But every such raid has strengthened the resolve of Shiv Sena leaders.'

IMAGE: Maharashtra's Transport Minister and Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab speaks to the media after the Enforcement Direcorate raided premises linked to him on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

With Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra's Transport Minister Anil Parab being the latest to face the Enforcement Directorate's raids on his properties in Mumbai, Pune and Dapoli, over alleged improprieties in a land deal in Dapoli, the Shiv Sena has decided to take it on the chin.

Shiv Sena leaders Sanjay Raut, Pratap Sarnaik, and Yashwant Jadhav -- chairman of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation's Standing Committee, elections to which are scheduled sometime later this year, and which undersees a budgetary allocation of over Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) -- are already under the ED's lens in various cases of alleged money laundering.

"We don't specifically need any strategy to deal with the ED or CBI raids. They have been happily doing it since the MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi, a coalition of the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress) government came to power and we are happy to welcome them. It is obvious what this (the Narendra Damodardas Modi) government's intentions are," says party's South Mumbai MP Arvind Sawant.

Parab, who is already under the ED's radar in another case linked to former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, along with Raut, Sarnaik and Jadhav are considered close to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Two MVA ministers Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, both NCP leadsers, are in jail over charges of money laundering.

In March 2022, the ED raided Thackeray's brother-in-law Shrikant Madhav Patankar and attached property worth Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million) belonging to a firm owned by Patankar.

"With each ED, CBI raid on us they (the Bharatiya Janata Party) think we will soften down. But every such raid has strengthened the resolve of Shiv Sena leaders and MVA unity further," adds Sawant.

"Today Narayan Rane is clean because he is with you. And you (then chief minister and now leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis) had in the House (the Maharashtra assembly) levelled charges of corruption against him," points out Sawant. "This proves that you are laundered clean once someone enters your party (the BJP) and even gets rewarded with a Cabinet berth."

Former Shiv Sena chief minister Narayan Rane -- a fierce opponent of Uddhav Thackeray -- was a member of the Congress party when Fadnavis accused him of corruption. He later joined the BJP and was, surprisingly, appointed a Cabinet minister when Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi shuffled his ministers in July 2021.

As a novel way to highlight how central agencies are hounding leaders belonging to the Opposition parties in non-BJP ruled states, an Independent MLA from Mira-Bhayander, a township near Mumbai, Geeta Jain -- a former BJP mayor who rebelled against it and now supports the Shiv Sena -- has written to President Ram Nath Kovind to ask central agencies to investigate her.

"It is a very bold step," says Shiv Sena MLC and spokesperson Dr Manisha Kayande about Jain's letter.

"The ultimate decision will be of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray," says Dr Kayande when asked if the Sena's elected representatives should emulate Jain's action and write a letter to the President, asking him to order investigations against them.

"The strategy is to take them (central agencies like the CBI and ED) head on. The strategy is we will not shy away from any investigation. We welcome them to hound us," Dr Kayande says about how the Sena plans to defend itself against raids by the central agencies.

"Our strategy is to take it on the chin. We will face all the raids and harassment with a smiling face," says Sawant, the Sena's MP from Mumbai South. "They (the Modi government) won't stop doing what they are doing. So, let them enjoy themselves with these raids."

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, left, with his son state Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray at the Shivsampark Abhiyan rally in Mumbai, Saturday, May 14, 2022. Photograph: PTI Photo

While taking it on the chin is one part of the Shiv Sena's strategy to deal with investigations against its leaders, the party is simultaneously calling out how biased and selective the central agencies are when responding to charges of corruption.

"When their leaders level corruption charges against their opponents, all the central investigation agencies push each other to raid us. But they have gone to sleep over corruption charges levelled by (Sena Rajya Sabha MP) Sanjay Raut (against BJP leaders). When ED officials get quick retirement, they immediately get to contest on your party ticket, then what integrity do such agencies have?" asks Sawant.

"Investigation agencies from Maharashtra are also conducting investigations into the allegations levelled by Raut. But the Uddhav Thackeray government will not act with vindictiveness. We will produce evidence and then take action against them," the MP says.

The Mumbai police filed a case former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya and his son Neil Somaiya in the alleged embezzlement of funds collected from the public to save the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant from being scrapped.

"Why did Kirit Somaiya go into hiding and surface only after getting bail from the court? Why should someone with Z+ security go underground? If you were really that clean, then why didn't you approach the police before getting bail?" asks Sawant.

Talking about the ED raids on Parab related to money laundering in a 2017 property deal in Ratnagiri's Dapoli, Sawant asks, "Did Anil Parab construct the resort after the MVA came to power in 2019 or before that? If this resort was constructed before 2019, then what was the Devendra Fadnavis government (of which the Shiv Sena was a partner) doing?"

"It means that we are criminals only when we part with you and we are clean so long as we ally with you."

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