Bhujbal arrest no vendetta, asserts Fadnavis

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Mumbai, March 15 (IANS) Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday flatly rejected opposition allegations of pursuing “vendetta politics” in the arrest of former deputy chief minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal by the Enforcement Directorate in corruption cases.

Making a statement in the legislative assembly on Tuesday afternoon, Fadnavis said Bhujbal was arrested on the basis of evidence found in the ED investigation against him.

“This is not a case of revenge politics. We will not extend any help in hiding scams and scamsters will be punished,” the chief minister asserted.

If there was corruption in the state, why should the ED remain quiet, Fadnavis countered and denied charges of pressuring the agency in pursuing its probes.

“The ED in an independent body. There is no question of pressuring anybody,” he said, dismissing opposition charges on the issue.

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In a major embarrassment to the Nationalist Congress Party, Bhujbal was interrogated by ED sleuths for nearly 11 hours on Monday and then arrested in connection with corruption cases against him.

The move was greeted with demonstrations, protests and road blocks across Maharashtra with thousands of people taking to the streets in support of Bhujbal, who is also a prominent backward caste leader.

The main opposition parties, Congress and NCP on Tuesday staged protests on the stairs of the legislature and many leaders condemned Bhujbal’s arrest.

Several leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed the ED step.

The ED action against Bhujbal came over a month after his nephew Sameer Bhujbal was similarly summoned in February and subsequently arrested.

Last month, the ED questioned Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj Bhujbal, a legislator, and allowed him to go, even as his father cried foul and the NCP termed it “political vendetta”.

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The ED’s probe follows a Bombay High Court ruling in January when it sought progress reports from the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau and the ED within four weeks on their investigations against the Bhujbals.

Following complaints lodged by BJP’s Lok Sabha member from Mumbai Kirit Somaiya, the ED had lodged two first information reports against the Bhujbals and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to probe the Maharashtra Sadan scam in New Delhi and the Kalina land grabbing scam in Mumbai.

The ED had conducted searches twice at nine premises belonging to the Bhujbal trio and others, and subsequently served attachment orders on three prime properties linked to the Bhujbal family members worth over Rs.280 crore in Mumbai.

Simultaneously, the state Anti-Corruption Bureau lodged a charge sheet against the three Bhujbals and 14 others in the Maharashtra Sadan case.

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The Maharashtra Sadan, a state government guest house in New Delhi, was constructed at a cost of Rs.100 crore during the tenure of the erstwhile Congress-NCP government.

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