The ED action against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's brother-in-law stems from “political vendetta” and portends “monstrous dictatorship” in the country, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut claimed on Tuesday.
Interacting with the media in Mumbai, Raut accused judiciary, administration and central probe agencies of behaving as if they are "slaves to dictatorial Uddhav tendencies" and added justice cannot be expected from courts in the atmosphere that is prevailing in the country at present.
The Sena leader's strongly worded reaction came after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said it has attached assets worth Rs 6.45 crore of a company owned by Shridhar Madhav Patankar, Thackeray's brother-in-law, in connection with a money-laundering investigation. Thackeray is also the president of the Shiv Sena, which heads the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Raut said Shiv Sena leaders were ready to go jail if the BJP-led central government wants to take such a step and added the party will fight the battle for freedom and democracy.
The Rajya Sabha member said the BJP should “wake up” if it thinks the MVA government in the state can be brought down by pressurising its “main pillar” (a reference to Sena).
Speaking to reporters at Baramati in Pune district, NCP president Sharad Pawar, whose party is a key constituent of the MVA, alleged "misuse" of the machinery by the Centre.
The former Union minister said such misuse of the resources by the Centre is the biggest issue the country is faced with at present.
“Pressurising those who have defeated you in polls or political opponents from states where you are not in power using central agencies in this manner portends monstrous dictatorship…most of the ED's actions have been taken in the states where the BJP is not in power,” Raut said.
He claimed the ED action was taken “out of vendetta, to put pressure on BJP's political opponents and to create sensation without giving opportunity to one to keep forth his/her side”.
“Such actions are taken to show political opponents that they can be made to bow down using central probe agencies and are being taken not only in Maharashtra, but also in every state where the BJP is not in power,” he alleged.
Raut said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee, too, was called to New Delhi for probe by a central agency.
The Sena MP said during the 10-year Congress-led UPA regime (2004-2014), a maximum of 22 to 23 actions were taken by the ED. But the ED's actions have gone up manifold after the Modi government was formed.
Raut said Patanakar is “a family member” and related not only to Thackeray and the CM's wife Rashmi, but also the Shiv Sena.
He accused the Centre of taking such actions only in states like West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh where the BJP is not in power.
The “biggest” bank scam took place in BJP-ruled Gujarat, but no accused has been summoned or arrested or their assets seized, he alleged, apparently referring to the loan fraud case involving ABG Shipyard.
“But neither West Bengal will bow down, nor Maharashtra will break. If you think the government can be brought down by pressurising the main pillar of the MVA government and the President's rule can be imposed here, then you wake up. Nothing of this sort will happen here,” he asserted.
“I don't think we can expect justice from courts in such an atmosphere. But the biggest court is the people...the people of Maharashtra are familiar with the Thackeray family,” he added.
Raut alleged even courts are under pressure in the current atmosphere and said such a thing has never happened in the country before.
“This is a dangerous beginning of dictatorship. If you (BJP) have won in four states, it does not mean you have become the owner of the country. If you want to jail us, then be ready. We all are ready to go to jail. We are ready to fight the battle for freedom and democracy once again,” he added.
"We have brought to light, with evidence, corruption cases of several key BJP people. We have sent the same to the ED, CBI and PMO. There are cases that can shock the country, but you (BJP) have targeted only us," Raut said.
Asked about the ED action, Pawar said, “The misuse of the resources (central agencies) is the biggest issue before the country at present…such an action has been taken to trouble someone out of political or some other motive."
Pawar said not many people knew about the ED until 5 to 10 years ago. “But it is known even in villages now because of the misuse of the agency,” he added.
However, the BJP defended the ED action. BJP legislator Atul Bhatkhalkar said the move was a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's crusade against corruption.
Speaking to reporters, Bhatkhalkar said, “PM Modi has started an anti-corruption crusade and ED actions are part of it. ED officials have been unearthing corrupt practices.”
Another BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said, "We will not let corrupt people walk away easily."