Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said on Wednesday, 23 February that they will not sack Nawab Malik after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case involving underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim. Malik has been sent to ED custody till 3 March.
On Wednesday evening, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, assuring him support, and also requested him to not remove Malik from the Cabinet.
Earlier, the NCP allies in Maharashtra's Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government – the Shiv Sena and the Congress – had also expressed support for Malik.
'Challenge to Maharashtra Govt': Sanjay Raut
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, while speaking to ANI, said, "Nawab Malik is a senior leader and Maharashtra's cabinet minister. The way in which he was taken from his home by the ED is a challenge to Maharashtra government."
"A minister is taken away by central agencies by coming to our state. After 2024, you'll (the BJP) be probed too. Keep this in mind," he added.
Maha Congress Chief Patole Alleges Act of Revenge
Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole said that Malik’s arrest was an act of revenge by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as per reports by The Wire.
He also expressed solidarity with the NCP leader, saying that the Congress would stand by Malik through this phase.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar had earlier said that the 62-year-old Malik was being 'harassed' for 'speaking the truth.'
Those who express their views openly against the BJP government and the investigating agencies, those who speak the truth, are being harassed," The Indian Express quoted Pawar as saying.
The NCP's Supriya Sule also termed the action an "insult to Maharashtra."
"For many days people of the BJP were tweeting that ED notice will come against Nawab Malik and Maha Vikas Aghadi. They directly took him to the ED office without any notice. I don't know what new type of politics they have started. It's an insult to Maharashtra," Sule said.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi also put out a tweet in support of Malik, saying that the "ED, IT, NCB, CBI, Pakistan, Dawood are all BJPs campaign tools, deployed from time to time to help BJP narrative."
She also called the ED an "extended department of BJP."
BJP Demands Malik's Resignation
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil told the media that Malik must resign from his post.
"If he doesn't resign, we will protest. How are they running the government? There is a long list of allegations against Maharashtra ministers. We are getting tired of reading it," Patil added.
One of the allegations of the ED against Malik is that he bought property from one of the aids of gangster Dawood Ibrahim at a price that was lower than the market rate at the time, The Indian Express reported.
This allegation was also made against Malik by former Maharashtra chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis in November 2021.
Regarding the arrest of Malik, Devendra Fadnavis said that the entire Maharashtra government is standing behind someone who helped criminals like Dawood and is helping him save his seat. The government will have to answer this country, he said.
"Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik purchased land worth crores with the help of underworld. After a detailed investigation in this matter, the ED court has sentenced him (Nawab Malik) to ED custody until 3 March," he further said, according to ANI.
The BJP leader said that the ED would do such investigations if politicians will be in direct contact with the underworld, as reported by ANI. "All political parties should support this. The terror fundings of Dawood Ibrahim was done in India through such deals," he added.
(With inputs from The Indian Express, The Wire and ANI.)