Is the Centre targeting Pawar, Lavasa in run up to polls?

ED’s move against NCP leader Sharad Pawar, and IT notices against EC Ashok Lavasa’s kin appear to be an attempt to send a chilling signal to BJP’s political opponents and dissenting functionaries

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar (file photo).
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar (file photo).

Faraz Ahmad

Just weeks ahead of the Assembly polls in Maharashtra, the Enforcement Directorate registered a ‘Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR)’ against Maratha leader and chief of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Sharad Pawar.

This was ostensibly based on a FIR filed by the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police in connection with alleged irregularities in Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank.

The ED’s move on September 23 came just two days after the Election Commission announced the timetable for Assembly polls in the two states of Maharashtra and Haryana, besides bypolls in more than 60 constituencies across India.

Political observers interpret this as part of a plot to not only intimidate Congress and NCP leaders to flock to the BJP, but also ensure a funds crunch for the two parties.

This is reminiscent of the Demonetisation announced in November 2016, which apart from crippling Indian economy and inconveniencing the citizens, ended up drastically reducing the war chest of BJP’s main rivals in UP, namely the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, which both relied mainly on cash transactions. The move had also convinced a lot of voters that the Modi-led Central government actually intended to crack down on black money.

As a result, BJP swept the UP Assembly polls held a couple of months later.

Another development that seems to be made in tandem with the announcement of the forthcoming polls is the Income Tax department’s notices to Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa’s wife Novel — a former senior bank officer — as well as his son and sister.

Lavasa was, of course, the lone dissenter when the Election Commission headed by CEC Sunil Arora deigned to give clean chits to Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on five different occasions following the Opposition’s complaints alleging violation of the MCC during the 2019 General Elections.

As per seniority and tradition, Lavasa is expected to succeed Arora after he retires in April 2021 and continue as CEC till October 2022. Such a prospect seems to be unpalatable to the current dispensation, and the IT move seems to be laying of grounds to supeceding Lavasa if not ousting him from the post altogether.

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Published: 27 Sep 2019, 4:27 PM