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NCP in the dock

NCP in the dock

Author: TN Raghunatha
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 9, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/181803/NCP-in-the-dock.html

Sena, BJP seek State Home Minister's scalp for cover-up
Will completely dissociate if charges are proved: Praful

The ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) found itself in the dock on Monday as the Opposition Shiv Sena-BJP alliance mounted pressure on it for either the resignation (from Lok Sabha) or expulsion (from the NCP) of its arrested MP Padamsinh Patil and simultaneously clamoured for the resignation of the party's State Home Minister Jayant Patil for the DF Government's efforts to "protect" the party's crime-tainted leader.

The NCP MP's arrest for alleged involvement in the murder of Congress leader Pawanraje Nimbalkar had its backlash both in the State and national political circles. While the saffron alliance leaders Gopinath Munde (of the BJP) and Manohar Joshi (of Shiv Sena) based in the capital rooted for the resignation or expulsion of Patil, there was a vociferous clamour for the resignation of State Home Minister Jayant Patil for the State Government's efforts to push the Nimbalkar murder case under the carpet. The Patil issue figured in both the Houses of Maharashtra Legislature, leading to adjournments and uproarious scenes. The Opposition saffron alliance members came down heavily on Jayant Patil and RR Patil for "sabotaging" the investigations into the Nimbalkar murder case.

"Had Nimbalkar's widow (Anandibai) not approached the Bombay High Court seeking the transfer of the case from the State CID to CBI, Patil would have gone scot-free," leader of the Opposition Ramdas Kadam said.

On the second consecutive day when the NCP leaders tried to distance their party from the crime allegedly committed by its former State Home Minister and newly-elected MP, there was also a demand in the Maharashtra Legislature for the resignations of the arrested MP's son Rana Jagjitsinh Patil, who is a Minister of State in the Ashok Chavan Cabinet, and State NCP president RR Patil, who had earlier held the State Home portfolio.

The increasing pressure on the NCP leadership to either force Patil - charged with the murder of Congress leader Pawanraje Nimbalkar - to resign as an MP or expel him from the party notwithstanding, beleaguered party president Sharad Pawar was not in mood to relent as yet. An astute politician that he is, Pawar may buy some more time before he acts.

On his part, senior Congress leader from Maharashtra and Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh - who is otherwise not favourably disposed towards Pawar, chose to give some relief to the Maratha leader, by saying that the Patil arrest issue was "an internal matter" of the NCP. "It is NCP's internal matter. It is for the NCP to decide whether Patil should resign from Lok Sabha or not. As far as the charges against Patil are concerned, the law will take its own course," Deshmukh told mediapersons in the capital.

Deshmukh denied that Patil's arrest had embarrassed the Congress-led DF Government. "The question of embarrassment does not arise. Because, all the accused (in the Nimbalkar murder case) have already been arrested and our Government is giving its full co-operation to the CBI which is investigating the case," he said.

However, newly elected BJP State chief Munde turned the heat on Pawar, as he demanded either the resignation or expulsion of Patil in the wake of his arrest. "If Patil resigns, it is okay. If he does not, then the NCP should expel him from the party," Munde said.

Munde charged that the ruling NCP, which was holding the Home portfolio in the Congress-led DF Government, had desperately tried to "protect" Patil in the Nimbalkar murder case, till the CBI came into the scene.

Alluding to a reported statement by Pawar that Patil was a "respectable leader" within his party, Munde wondered as how to a person accused of murder could become a "respectable person". "I expected Pawar to take action against Patil. However, he has instead chosen to defend him," the BJP leader said.

Sena's Manohar Joshi also demanded Patil's resignation. "Since this is a serious case, I expect Pawar to ask Patil to resign immediately".

Joshi's party colleague and spokesperson Sanjay Raut demanded extra pound of flesh, when he demanded the resignations of Maharashtra Home Minister Jayant Patil and State NCP president RR Patil, who had earlier held the State Home portfolio, for their efforts to "protect" Patil in the Nimbalkar murder case.

Charging that the then State Home Minister RR Patil - in his effort to "protect" Patil had tried to sabotage the investigations into the Nimbalkar murder case, Raut said that the current State Home Minister had not done anything to bring culprits to book.

Raut asked Pawar to seek resignation of both Patils - the current Home Minister and the State NCP chief - for promoting criminalisation of politics in Maharashtra. He also announced that the Shiv Sena would launch a campaign against the crime-tainted DF Government.

Expectedly, the NCP was in a defensive mode. Senior NCP leader and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said his party had nothing to do with the murder case involving Patil and it would "completely dissociate" itself from the newly-elected MP, if the charges against him were proved.

In Maharashtra, the Patil issue figured in both the Houses of Maharashtra Legislature, with the Opposition saffron alliance members demanding resignation of State Home Minister.

"We have been raising the Nimbalkar murder issue in the House for the last three years, but the State Government has not bothered to take any action. On the contrary, the State Government went out of the way to protect Patil," BJP group leader Eknath Khadse said initiating a debate in the State Assembly on the law and order situation of Maharashtra. He said that Jayant Patil should step down from his office, owning moral responsibility.

As Khadse demanded Patil's resignation, saffron alliance members rushed to the well of the House and raised slogans demanding the State Home Minister's scalp.

Earlier in the day, Kadam had said that but for the orders of the High Court, the CBI would not have taken up the Nimbalkar murder case and Patil would have not been arrested as was the case now.

Like in the State Assembly, there was a vehement clamour for the State Home Minister's resignation in the Upper House. Senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari charged that law and order had broken down in the State, while other senior saffron alliance leaders Pandurang Pundkar (both BJP) and Diwakar Raote (Shiv Sena) castigated the DF Government for its efforts to "protect" Patil till the time the CBI took over the investigations of the Nimbalkar murder case.

PNS adds from New Delhi: There is much unease between the Congress and NCP - who are alliance partners both at the Centre and in poll-bound Maharashtra. The Assembly elections are slated for October or November in the State. Buoyed by the success of going-it-alone experiment in Uttar Pradesh, there is increased pressure on the Congress leadership to dissociate itself from NCP in the State.

After the arrest of Padamsinh Patil leaders of both the parties are maintaining a studied silence. The Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre does not want to be accused of using CBI to hound its alliance partners. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said: "There is no problem between the NCP and Congress. This is a legal matter. Law will take its course." When asked that Patil had been given a clean chit by the State Home department, Ahmed said, "There can be difference between the findings of State agencies and the CBI investigations."

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