Black flags, posters in Pune ahead of PM’s visit on Sunday

Prime Minister, scheduled to visit Pune on Sunday, might face hostile reception with Maharashtra CM describing BJP as ‘Sappancha Pilla’ and Sharad Pawar tweeting he plans to ask some hard questions

Black flags, posters in Pune ahead of PM’s visit on Sunday

Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Pune on March 6 to unveil a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Pune, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar declared his intention to ask some hard questions of the Prime Minister on Sunday.

In a series of tweets in Marathi on Saturday, he openly came out in defence of party leader and minister Nawab Malik, accusing the Enforcement Directorate with foisting a trumped-up case against Malik with political motives and subjecting Malik and his family to mental torture.

“Malik has been a legislator and minister for 20 years and there was never a charge against him,” Pawar tweeted. In the early 2000s social activist Anna Hazare had levelled charges against Malik of wrongful allotments as housing minister. Malik had then resigned and fought the case in the Supreme Court which acquitted him of all charges. Since then, there had been no blemish on Malik's record.

Coming out with all guns blazing against the BJP, Pawar said any party with a Muslim worker and “these people" immediately link him to Dawood Ibrahim. "Some years back they had accused me too of connections with Dawood which were baseless. So now one would not worry about such false allegations.”

Perhaps ED shot itself in the foot and provided ample ammunition to Pawar against it. In its "I am Mr MacAdams" moment, the ED first filed a charge sheet against Malik stating that he had paid Rs 55 lakh in 2005 to a Dawood associate for a piece of land in Kurla in north east Mumbai. A few days later it filed a correction in court stating that there had been a typographical error and Malik had bought the land for only Rs five lakh.

Even given the time lapse since the purchase, Kurla with its proximity to posh commercial business district of Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) could not have had such low-priced land and the ED's correction immediately led BJP opponents to state that the case was politically motivated.

Since Malik's arrest, the BJP has been clamouring for his resignation. But now Pawar has fired another shot at the BJP, saying, “While it is true that Malik has been arrested, it is also equally true that our old friend from Sindhudurg (Narayan Rane) was also arrested. We never saw any evidence of the Central government demoting or reducing him in any manner for that arrest.” Pawar then went for the BJP's jugular saying the party had double standards – one law for Malik and another for Rane.

Pawar escalated the issue by stating that while Modi visits Pune on Sunday, he hoped the prime minister would clarify his government's duplicity and satisfy the opposition on why sauce for the goose was not sauce for the gander (not his words but translated from Marathi to English).

Obviously, Pawar has made up his mind and is in no mood to tolerate the shenanigans of the BJP. Pune is his home turf and on Saturday Congress and the NCP plastered the city with black flags and posters opposing Modi's visit, which were later taken down by central forces from some areas. However, neither of the three parties in the Maha Vikas Aghadi seem in a mood to allow BJP a free lunch.

Only yesterday Chief Minister Uddhav Yhackeray described BJP as “saapacha pilla' (saanp ka pilla or snakelet) and regretted that the Shiv Sena had fed it for 25 years. “Now that pilla is trying to bite the hand that fed it. But we know very well how to crush such snakes,” he added.

Ahead of the results to elections in five states, Maharashtra leaders seem to have made up their mind and declared full scale war on the BJP.

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