After creating a stir with his announcement that he would voluntarily visit the Enforcement Directorate office in Mumbai, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, named in a money-laundering case, cancelled the plan on Friday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, pointed out that the probe in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam, over which the ED has filed the case, began when a Congress-NCP government was in power.
Pawar said he decided not to go to the ED office after Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve met him at his residence and requested him to reconsider his plan.
The ED too had conveyed to him on Thursday that his presence was not required for now, he said.
Expecting protests by NCP workers, the police had imposed prohibitory orders in south Mumbai where the ED's office is located.
Two days ago, Pawar, a former Union minister, made a dramatic announcement that he would visit the ED office -- though not summoned -- on Friday after the agency disclosed that his name figures in the MSCB case.
"I have canceled the visit to the ED office for now. I am ready to go there when required....if someone tries to scare us off through the ED or any other agency, he or she will not succeed," Pawar told reporters at his residence on Friday morning.
He would furnish whatever information the ED needs whenever it demands, he added.
"(Congress leaders) Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and other senior national leaders and the Shiv Sena, too, supported me, I thank them," he said.
He also questioned the timing of the ED case, which came ahead of the October 21 assembly polls in Maharashtra.
"Our impression is that the decision was taken to malign the image of heads of opposition parties at a particular time," he said.
He had conveyed his decision to visit ED office to the investigation agency in writing, Pawar said.
"I got a reply yesterday. It said I have not been summoned, I need not visit the office, and I will be informed when I should visit the office whenever required," he said.
"Mumbai's commissioner of police and joint police commissioner met me. There is anger among (NCP) workers after the case was filed. They were being stopped from coming to the city. The commissioner said there was a possibility of the law and order getting disturbed," Pawar said.
"I have handled the state's home department in the past. I don't want any of my actions to cause inconvenience to common people," the former Maharashtra chief minister said.
The 79-year-old politician denied any wrongdoing. "I was not associated with the bank either as member or director," he said.
NCP MP and Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule tweeted, ‘truth always prevails’.
‘Thanking Each and Every Party Worker, Officer Bearer of @NCPSpeaks who came to Mumbai from all over Maharashtra to support Hon. @PawarSpeaks Saheb and stand up for the truth,’ she said.
Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil accused the BJP-led government of targeting Pawar after realising that his campaign rallies were receiving a huge response.
Earlier on Friday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted that Pawar was the latest Opposition leader to be targeted by a ‘vindictive Government" and the timing, a month before elections, "reeks of political opportunism’.
The Shiv Sena, a BJP ally, also defended Pawar.
"His name is not even mentioned in the complaint on which the high court acted. Just because some of his aides are involved, he is being called the kingpin. This doesn't come under the purview of law," Sena MP Sanjay Raut said.
State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil denied that the ED was acting at the government's behest. The inquiry in the MSCB scam was launched in 2010 when Congress and NCP were in power in the state, he pointed out.