With the Election Commission announcing the schedule of Lok Sabha elections 2019, let us talk through one of the veteran leaders of Maharashtra and national politics, Sharad Pawar, who has managed to keep his profile clean even after multiple corruption charges against him. Recently, the State Crime Investigation Department (CID) has given a clean chit to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar in an alleged sugar cooperatives scam case worth around Rs 25,000 crores filed by Anna Hazare in 2016.
In his long political career, Pawar has been alleged in many scams and corruption cases but he managed to save his clean image every time. Social activist Anna Hazare, on the other hand, has led many movements to promote rural development, transparency in government, and to investigate and punish corruption in public life. Hazare frequently conducted hunger strikes to encourage grassroots movement. It seems invisible political power hands behind Pawar has failed ‘Anti Scam Hero’ Anna Hazare in this case.
Farmer leader Dr. Ajit Navle spoke to Afternoon Voice and expressed, “Anna Hazare is one of the biggest social activists that India has. If he has filed a complaint against Sharad Pawar, he must be having solid proof though he failed to properly justify them before the court. Although Anna has failed to prove Pawar guilty in sugar cooperatives scam case, there’s no doubt that the sugar industry in Maharashtra is corruption-ridden. All the sugar factories in the state are owned by the politicians and hence, the industry plays a crucial role in the state politics.”
He went on stating, “We respect the decision of the court. Yet, we want a thorough investigation of the cases against Sharad Pawar. Being a prominent face of state and national politics, Pawar utmostly used his influence to keep his image clean. Anna must not lose hope; he should come forward again with more proof and we are always with Anna.”
Hazare had originally filed a PIL in 2016, after which the court asked him to approach the police. He then filed a complaint with MRA Marg police station and the investigation for which was handed over to the CID. In a 105 page-complaint backed by reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General, Hazare alleged that a fraud that had been committed in governance by first burdening the sugar cooperative factories with debts and thereafter selling the sick units at a throwaway price, amounting to over Rs 25,000 crore loss to the government and the cooperative sector in the State. The allegations pertain to the period when the Congress and the NCP were in power in the state and the UPA in the Centre.
In a report filed before the bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice NM Jamdar on Friday, the State CID told the court that it had closed the case as nothing was found in the preliminary inquiry. However, Hazare’s lawyer Satish Talekar indicated a biased investigation and objected to the CID’s finding saying that Hazare had already raised an objection to the government that the officer appointed to investigate the case was working under the influence of Pawar. He further added that in a similar case filed by someone else, the Mumbai police’s Economic Offences Wing had called the complainant to give his statement; however, in this case, the CID has closed the case without even calling Hazare to record his statement. However, the bench directed that Hazare’s case be listed along with the other case pointed out by his lawyer. The case is now likely to be heard on March 28.
Swabhimani Paksha President Raju Shetti asserted, “All the sugar factories have been bought by the state politicians at a very low price as compared to the market value during Pawar’s tenure as the Agriculture Minister. While I can’t assure a Rs 25,000 crore scam, but I believe that the corruption of at least Rs 10,000 crore has been committed.”
BJP MLA Anil Gote said, “Scams in the Maharashtra sugar industry have mostly affected the lives of the farmers. Almost every politician is charged with some or the other corruption case; however, being charged and being judicially proved to be a scamster, are two different things. Anna Hazare has failed to submit proper proof against Sharad Pawar and as always, he has managed to save himself. I feel that Anna should further highlight this case and submit the needed evidence before the court.”
Being the then Minister of Agriculture, Pawar was consistently accused of colluding in the extreme hike in prices of agriculture produce. In the case of Wheat import in 2007, the Bombay High Court questioned the decision to import defective red wheat and asked for a directive to submit details of procurement of the crops from different states and the exact process of importing.
The then opposition parties including the BJP accused Pawar to be responsible for the rise in the price of Wheat, Sugar, Rice, and Bean in 2009-2010. Pawar was named as the beneficiary in a paper stamp scam by a convicted Indian criminal, Abdul Karim Telgi, during a narco analyst test which was filmed by many news channels. Pawar was also accused of having links with the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim through Ibrahim’s henchman Lakhan Singh.
NCP MLA Pradeep Jadhav Naik stated, “We should accept the court’s verdict. It’s not good to file such complaint against notable national leaders like Sharad Pawar. The clean chit for Pawar proves that Anna had no evidence against him.”
Nevertheless, Sharad Pawar on Monday expressed his decision to not be in the election race in the upcoming Lok Sabha election from the Madha constituency in Maharashtra which is now held by his party leader Vijaysingh Mohite Patil.
By Aabid Ali & Gautam Korde