Amravati violence: BJP’s only job appears to be stoking fumes of communal discord, says Sharad Pawar

He accuses BJP of using central agencies to destabilise the MVA Govt.

Lashing out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the recent violence which broke out in Amravati, Malegaon and other places, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday said that the saffron party’s only job seemed to be to stoke the fumes of communal discord.

Speaking in Gadchiroli district during his four-day tour of the Vidarbha region, Mr. Pawar said that whatever had happened in the far-off State Tripura (reports of mosques being desecrated) should not have had any reverberations in Maharashtra.

“At present, some parties are trying to nourish sectarianism and spark communal discord to spread hatred and divisiveness among people. It is our duty to stop these forces and thwart their schemes… Why did the incident in Tripura reverberate in Amravati?” said the NCP chief, criticizing the role of BJP in fuelling communal tensions allegedly for poll benefits.

A number of BJP leaders including former Maharashtra Ministers Anil Bonde and Pravin Pote were arrested by the Amravati police in connection with the violence which erupted on November 13 following a call for a bandh given by minority organizations like the Raza Academy, which too, is under the police scanner. Mr. Bonde was released on bail earlier this week.

Earlier, speaking in Nagpur, Mr. Pawar launched a broadside against the BJP-led Centre and accused it of attempting to destabilize the Maharashtra Government by using central agencies indiscriminately to target leaders of the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government, including former Home Minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate over money laundering charges and is currently in judicial custody.

“Those [read the BJP] who played a role in getting former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh sent to jail will be made to pay the price of every day and every hour for having done so…we will not keep quiet,” warned Mr. Pawar, while insisting that Mr. Deshmukh was innocent.

The NCP chief also questioned the whereabouts of former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, who had accused Mr. Deshmukh of having ordered him to extort ₹100 crore from businesses and establishments, which in turn had compelled the latter to resign.

“What was Anil Deshmukh’s crime? One day, Param Bir Singh came to meet me and said he had complained to the Chief Minister against Mr. Deshmukh. When I asked him what it was about, he claimed that Mr. Deshmukh had given him instructions to extort money. Then I asked him if he carried out the instructions. He said he didn’t. So, I am unable to understand what Deshmukh’s crime was if his so-called instructions were not carried out in the first place,” said Mr. Pawar.

The NCP chief’s vocal and uncharacteristic defence of Mr. Deshmukh caused the opposition BJP to dub Mr. Pawar’s remarks and ‘strange’ and ‘regrettable’.

BJP MLA Ram Kadam questioned how anyone could support an extortion scandal of this magnitude while expressing regret that Mr. Pawar did not have faith in the investigating agencies and the judiciary.

“Is it possible that this scandal was limited only to the former Home Minister and another Shiv Sena leader? The links of this scandal could well reach the bosses of some leaders,” alleged Mr. Kadam.

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