Shiv Sena’s Raut alleges ED out to ‘fix’ him, asks VP to ‘rein in’ agency

In an unprecedented move, Shiv Sena Parliamentary Party Leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut has knocked the doors of Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Chairman of the upper house, with a plea to “rein in” the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and stop harassment of opposition political leaders.

Among the stunning points by Raut is how alleged cases are being on filed and probed on decades-old transactions, he was pressurised to help bring down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to force a mid-term election, and threatened with jail term along with two other state Cabinet Ministers, if he refused to cooperate.

Shooting off a 4-page letter, he has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of systematically targetting its erstwhile ally Shiv Sena leaders or persons close to them like family, relatives, friends, acquaintences by letting loose Central agencies like the ED against them.

Raut contended that the BJP used the probe agencies not only for harassment/ intimidation of leaders of other political parties but also to topple democratically-elected governments.

“This is certainly not a healthy sign for any country where democracy prevails,” pointed out Raut, who has received full support from the Sena leaders, Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress while the Aam Aadmi Party was left “amused”.

The development comes a year after independent Lok Sabha MP from Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli Mohan Delkar had made similar complaints to the Centre and later committed suicide in a Mumbai hotel in February 2021. Later his widow Kala M. Delkar won the same seat in a bypoll late last year.

Raut cited the instance of January when some persons approached him to assist ousting the MVA government of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to force a mid-term Assembly poll in the state, and when he refused to join the clandestine efforts, was warned of a fate similar to RJD leader Lalu Prasad with many years in jail, and that two Cabinet Ministers and 2 other senior state leaders would also be sent behind bars.

He said that there were two small property deals he conducted 10 and 17 years ago, which were duly declared by him in the election affidavits, and now the ED and other agencies are “probing” those deals, threatening the property sellers and their families are being harassed and threatened to give false statements against Raut or face jail or property seizure.

Referring to his daughter’s wedding in November 2021, Raut said that some 28 of the decorators and vendors have been picked up illegally, taken to the ED office where they are intimated into giving statements that he (Raut) made Rs 5 million in cash payments, warned of detention or arrest.

“In fact, some of the ED and other agencies personnel have even confessed to the very people they are summoning that they have been asked by their bosses to ‘fix’ me,” Raut said, adding how the Central agencies are reduced to puppets of their political masters.

Senior MVA leaders like Minister Aditya Thackeray, Kishore Tiwari, MP Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena), NCP’s Nawab Malik and Congress’ Chief Spokesperson Atul Londhe came out in full support of Raut.

BJP’s Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, however,charged Raut of playing the “victim card” and said that tigers cannot be scared of wolves.

“Raut is an editor and know how to make headlines or earn mileage from them… In (PM Narendra) Modi’s government no one can victimise anyone and hence Raut is playing a victim card,” said Fadnavis.

Opposition AAP leader Preeti Sharma-Menon said she was “amused” by Raut’s allegations of “misuse/abuse of power” by Central law enforcement agencies, and the “Shiv Sena is no paragon of virtue”.

She also slammed the BJP for “vendetta driver witchhunt of Opposition leaders” through systematic misuse of central agencies like the ED, the NCB, and the CBI by subverting the criminal justice system and grossly abusing the power vested in them.

Harking to similar tactics of BJP in Delhi – where AAP is in power, she said the BJP’s “diabolic plans” came to nought and these agencies were also pulled up by the courts.

“The Sena should learn from AAP and welcome scrutiny. It must walk the talk if it has nothing to hide and emerge unscathed. Or, maybe the Sena does have skeletons, nay, an entire graveyard in its closet for such was its association with the BJP, whom it divorced only recently (2019),” said Sharma-Menon.

Raut has also warned that he would soon come up with an “expose” on the ED, while Malik said the MVA would unitedly vanquish the BJP at the Centre.

For special effects, Raut closed his letter with the famed poem penned by the legendary anti-Nazi German pastor Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

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