Mumbai: NCP chief Sharad Pawar, named in a money-laundering case by the ED in connection with a scam at Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, on Friday said he won't visit the agency's office "for now", much to the relief of police and common citizens.
Pawar's decision came after Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve met him at his residence and requested him not to visit the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) office as it may create a law and order situation.
The former Union minister had announced he would go to the ED office at 2 pm, even though the agency has not summoned him yet. He had also appealed to party workers not to gather outside the ED office.
Ahead of Pawar's proposed visit, the police had imposed prohibitory orders outside the ED office in South Mumbai and stepped up security.
"I have cancelled to go there (ED office) as of now. I am ready to go there when required. We work in politics. But if someone tries to scare off us through agency, they will not succeed," he told reporters at his residence.
Pawar thanked political leaders who supported him.
"(Congress leaders) Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and other senior national leaders and the Shiv Sena, too, supported me, I thank them," he said.
Gandhi had slammed the Modi government for "targeting" Pawar ahead of the Maharashtra polls.
"Sharad Pawar Ji is the latest Opposition leader to be targeted by a vindictive Government. The timing of this action, a month before elections in Maharashtra, reeks of political opportunism," Gandhi said on Twitter.
The Maratha strongman questioned the timing of the ED case, which came just weeks ahead of the October 21 assembly polls in Maharashtra.
"Our impression is the decision was taken to malign the image of heads of opposition parties at a particular time (during poll time).
"Hence, I wanted to visit the ED office. I had also conveyed the decision to visit the office in writing. I got a reply to this yesterday. It said I not been summoned, that I need not visit the office, that I will be informed about visiting the office whenever required," he said.
Party workers had been thronging the megapolis ahead of Pawar's planned visit to the ED office, putting law enforcement personnel on their toes to deal with any law and order problem.
Without naming any party, Pawar said the effort to "scare off" opposition leaders through probe agencies will not succeed.
Pawar said he did not want to give the impression that he was shying away from facing probe.
"I wanted to visit the office in connection with the case regarding the Maharashtra State Cooperative (MSC) Bank, I am ready to offer whatever cooperation needed.
"But I would be out for campaigning in Maharashtra given the elections have been declared. Hence, I would not be available for probe. But none should mistake this for me not being ready for the probe," the NCP chief said.
He said NCP workers were upset over filing of the case against him.
"Mumbai's Commissioner Police and Joint Police Commissioner met me. There is dissent among workers after the case was filed. They were being stopped from coming to the city. The CP said there was a possibility of law and order situation getting disturbed due to this.
"I myself have handled the state's home department in the past. I don't want any of my action to cause inconvenience to common people," the former Maharashtra chief minister said.
The 78-year-old politician denied any wrongdoing and asserted he was not associated with the cooperative bank in any capacity.
"I was not associated with the bank as its member or director. Yet, my name was mentioned in it," he said.
"We work in politics. If someone tries to scare us off through the Enforcement Directorate or any other department, he/she will not succeed," Pawar said.
The Baramati baron said he will now tour the rain- battered Pune district.
NCP workers had staged protests in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra when the ED named Pawar in the case earlier this week.
Anticipating similar protests on Friday, orders prohibiting movement of groups of people under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been imposed outside the ED office, an official said.
A late Thursday night communication from the police said prohibitory orders were also imposed under the jurisdictions of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Marine Drive, Dongri, Azad Maidan, J J Marg and MRA Marg police stations in South Mumbai.
The ED has filed the money-laundering case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar, a former deputy chief minister, and others in connection with the scam.
An Enforcement Case Information Report, equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named former chairmen of the bank, Ajit Pawar, and 70 erstwhile functionaries of the cooperative lender.
The NCP has termed the ED case as politically motivated.