Just recently, the PIB released a presser saying that the Income Tax department has unearthed unaccounted money to the tune of Rs.184 crores. This is a separate treasure IT department that has found independent of the Rs.1084 Crores found two weeks earlier. The presser hinted that the recovery is "from a very powerful Political Family."
Almost all the media persons, along with social media, immediately speculated that "the Political Family" must be of an ex-CM as the raids were mainly conducted at Baramati and Pune. The connection was obvious. Some private and media persons' social media handles claimed that the raids were targeted at the Pawar family, quoting sources within the Income Tax department. But the Income Tax department or The Enforcement Directorate, which conducted many raids earlier, never confirmed it officially.
But the hints were clear enough for social media and journalists to speculate. The agencies confiscated and seized all this money, mainly in cash, a few pieces of jewellery and few immovable properties. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya claimed IT had confiscated Ajit Pawar's sister's 'Benami' property in Kolhapur.
The entire Jarandeshwar sugar mill, now owned by Ajit Pawar, has been confiscated by the ED and IT, which say they have found an open trail of money laundering and misappropriation of public money. Jarandeshwar sugar mill was a cooperative mill, which was "auctioned" by the banks and sold to Ajit Pawar just for 40 crores. According to industry insiders, the value of the Jarandeshwar sugar mill is calculated to be around 400 crores. A few weeks after "purchasing" this mill, Ajit Pawar raised another around 400 crores from banks for "operating" Jarandeshwar. The money trail was clear and ED confiscated the sugar mill.
On the other hand, the recent raids are said to be targeted at the other members of the powerful family and the persons close to an ex-chief minister linked to Baramati, as it's been visible by the fluttering statements one after another NCP leaders close to the ex-CM.
Surprisingly, even after seizer of such a large amount of cash and property by the agencies, the Ajit Pawar faction within NCP, including Ajit dada himself, is visibly calm and remained unreactive even after media piercing again and again on the issue. Some political analysts say that this shows the vast infighting is going on within NCP and MVA. Entire Maharashtra knows that the ex-CM doesn't like his nephew, who has the largest following base within the party. Grapevine is that the ex-CM wants to instate his only daughter as the party head and present her as the future Chief Minister. Party workers, 99% of them Marathas, are in support of nephew, as the daughter is known among workers for her behaviour being more arrogant than the nephew. Hence, the current IT and ED raids are seen as the result of the infighting within the powerful family for control over the NCP.
Today, Ajit dada has shown political maturity by choosing to be calm and living away from media under the present conditions. While on the other hand, Sharad Pawar has shown a diagonally opposite attitude by choosing to hold a press conference against these raids by the agencies. He made an unscathed all-out attack on the agencies, claiming that the raids were politically motivated. He even crossed his limits by dragging the Narcotics Bureau in it, saying, "It's possible that the Narcotics Bureau planted drugs on Aryan Khan and others." Notably, NCP minister Nawab Malik's son-in-law is under NCB custody for several months for drug peddling charges. Malik is said to be a close aid of Sharad Pawar. Similarly, absconding former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, wanted by ED in money laundering cases, is said to be a close confidant of Sharad Pawar.
The political analysts draw attention to these facts and the calmness of Ajit Pawar even under pressure from ED and IT and the uneasiness shown publicly by Sharad Pawar camp at the same time under similar circumstances. They say the message is clear that there is a serious power fight going on within the party.
Another group of journalists point to another powerful political family in the state, but the current raids were targeted Baramati, a town in the Pune district of western Maharashtra known as home to ex CM's family.
Common Man Needs Answers
As for the common man, he needs answers from these politicians. How does an ailing sugar mill valued at over four hundred crores get "auctioned" just for 40 crores and a politician connected to it? How the same banks can give away four hundred crores to the same politician for the same sugar mill which they "auctioned" a few days ago for just forty cores, while these same banks outrightly deny Mudra loans amounting to just one to ten lakhs to a common man who wants to set up a small business? Sunil Jadhav, a small-time trader who runs a very small shop that sells vegetables in Dadar who tried a few times for Mudra Loan, asked the same question while this correspondent approached him for his reaction on the current raids. How can these corrupt politicians secure these large amounts from the same banks? He asked. He also wants to know why these politicians need this large amount of money when they are not employing any people to pay for it?
Common man also wants to know why the politicians of the stature of Sharad Pawar, time and again, drag the noble agencies like ED CBI and income tax department and even the Narcotics Bureau for their petty political gains? Mahesh Chavan, a taxi driver, reacted angrily, disliking the Pawar's move of holding a press conference against the agencies. He pointed out that it's an unnecessary step if you are innocent and must prove innocence before a court of law.
The Press Conference by Sharad Pawar against IT and ED raids clearly show that these politicians do not want to face the charges before a court of law, said Chavan while driving his cab thru busy city traffic. He also disapproved of Sharad Pawar's statements against Narcotics Bureau, saying that "This is amounting to support the drug cartel, or it shows that some big fish from his party may be involved." Either way, it's not good for the common public, and he demanded answers from these politicians. "Did they support the drug cartel similarly for their entire political career? They need to clarify their stand on drugs and should come clear on all suspicions." He asked sharply, to which this correspondent had no answers.
(Names of the common men stated in the story have been changed to protect their identity)