A BJP parliamentarian has said he doesn’t fear the Enforcement Directorate because he is an MP from the BJP, indirectly buttressing Opposition allegations that the Narendra Modi government has been using central investigative agencies to hound political rivals.
Sunday’s comment by Sanjay Patil, MP from Sangli in Maharashtra, came days after party MLA Harshvardhan Patil too publicly said he was getting “sound sleep” after joining the BJP from the Congress since there are now “no inquiries”.
“The ED won’t come after me since I am a BJP MP,” a smiling Sanjay Patil said, speaking in a lighter vein, while inaugurating a shopping mall in his constituency.
A video shows the MP asserting in Marathi that wealthy politicians are often unfairly accused of corruption, when a fellow dignitary on the dais says something to him that cannot be clearly heard. The MP, who owns two sugar mills, then makes the comment about the ED.
Sources suggested that Sanjay Patil had been keen to join Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but backed out for fear of facing a probe by a central agency.
When The Telegraph called the MP’s number, he said he had just arrived in “Bombay” and would talk after 15-20 minutes. When this newspaper called after a while, his phone was switched off.
Central agencies like the ED, CBI, income-tax department and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have launched probes against several non-BJP politicians in Maharashtra since the BJP lost power to a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition in 2019, triggering allegations of vendetta.
Similar charges have been levelled elsewhere in the country too.
Earlier this month, Harshvardhan Patil, who had defected from the Congress to the BJP ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls in 2019, was quoted by PTI as saying at an event: “We too had to go to BJP. He (referring to someone from the Opposition sitting next to him on the dais) asked why I had joined BJP. I told him to ask his leader why I went to BJP.”
He added: “Everything is easygoing and peaceful (in the BJP). I get sound sleep as there are no inquiries.”
Later, the four-time Maharashtra MLA claimed his comment had been misinterpreted.
NCP leaders have suggested the recent NCB drugs raid and arrest of Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan also reflects political victimisation.
“Drugs will become sugar powder if Shah Rukh Khan joins the BJP,” Maharashtra minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal had said on Saturday.
The ED has lodged money-laundering cases against several NCP and Sena leaders, including former state home minister Anil Deshmukh and fellow NCP leader Eknath Khadse.
The agency recently questioned Shiv Sena MP Bhawana Gawli and his party colleague and state transport minister Anil Parab. The ED has searched Sena MP Anand Adsul’s residence and offices in connection with a cooperative bank scandal.
“Never heard of so many ED actions in Maharashtra,” Pawar said recently. The ED had filed a money-laundering case against Pawar and his nephew Ajit ahead of the 2019 Assembly polls.
Among senior Opposition politicians investigated by central agencies is Congress veteran and former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram who was arrested by the CBI and the ED in 2019.
Karnataka Congress MLA D.K. Shivakumar was put in jail for weeks in an assets case by the income-tax authorities in 2019. In 2015, the CBI raided the residence of then Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh of the Congress on the day of his daughter’s wedding.