The Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) attachment of his “honestly-earned assets” was an instance of persecution of middle-class Maharashtrians in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said on Tuesday. He accused the BJP-ruled Central government of unleashing its agencies against him after he allegedly refused to help the BJP topple the tripartite ruling ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) government.
Speaking in New Delhi, the Sena spokesperson denied he had any illicit “property”. He said he had only his flat in Dadar and a piece of land not more than an acre in his ancestral Alibaug. He had been fully aware for some time now that Central agencies had been put behind him.
“I am a Shiv Sainik. These false investigation do not scare me or my party. I will never bow before this politics of revenge of vendetta,” he stated. He was not given any prior notice by the agency before it attached his flat and land, he claimed.
Mr. Raut noted that he had written to Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu in February, claiming that Central agencies had been let loose against leaders of his party ever since it ended its 25-year-old alliance with the BJP after the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections.
“I have been a fighter throughout. I have worked alongside [late Sena founder] Bal Thackeray for 30 years. I will never remain silent despite all this. It is the BJP which will now have to remain silent,” he said.
Calls of solidarity
He had received calls of solidarity from several people, including Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, he stated.
Last week, Mr. Raut had remarked that the State Home Department, which was in the NCP’s kitty (with Dilip Walse-Patil being the Home Minister) was not ‘aggressive’ enough in its response to frequent raids by Central agencies on MVA leaders.
Calling the ED’s action purely “political pressure”, Mr. Raut said that if indeed there had been an irregularity of even ₹1 on his or his wife’s part in their property transactions, then he was prepared to make out all his property in the BJP’s name and renounce politics.
“The BJP uses probe agencies to steal others properties. I am unperturbed by the ED’s action today. In one sense, it is as well that Maharashtra’s 11 crore population are witnessing how ordinary middle-class Maharashtrians are being harassed in their own State,” he said, asserting that never before had politics in the State had stooped this low.
The attachment of his Dadar flat where he and his family lived was an act of “sheer malice.” “It is just for the BJP to gloat on how it drove us out of our own house But I find it amusing that Central enforcement agencies can be so flagrantly misused in this fashion,” he said. He accused the BJP of trying to destabilise the MVA government ever since its inception.
The Maharashtra BJP under Devendra Fadnavis has accused its erstwhile saffron partner of “betraying the people’s mandate” after the 2019 polls, when the Shiv Sena, which fell out with it over the Chief Minister’s post, chose to form the MVA by allying with the ideologically opposed NCP and the Congress.
After the Central agencies’ arrests of NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, the Sena has been lately feeling the heat of the ED, with the agency attaching property worth ₹6.45 crore owned by Shridhar Patankar, Uddhav Thackeray’s brother-in-law.
Earlier, the Income Tax Department had raided the homes of Mr. Jadhav, an important Sena leader in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and his family, prompting the party to decry the alleged misuse of Central agencies by the BJP ahead of the high-stakes BMC election to be held later this year.
This was followed by the ED attaching property worth ₹11.35 crore of Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik and filing a charge sheet in a money laundering case against businessman Pravin Raut, said to be a close aide of Mr. Sanjay Raut.