Mumbai: Ahead of the Mumbai civic election this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used the arrest of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) minister Nawab Malik to invoke memories of the deadly 1993 Mumbai blasts and slammed the Shiv Sena for indirectly supporting the masterminds of the blast.
The Enforcement Directorate arrested Malik Wednesday on charges of laundering money for fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
The arrest was in connection with the ED’s money laundering probe into the alleged hawala network of Ibrahim and his aides for promoting anti-national activities in India and spreading terrorism.
While seeking his custody in court Wednesday, the ED cited a 2005 purchase of land in Kurla involving one 1993 Mumbai blasts accused and another person said to be Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar’s aide.
Speaking at a protest rally in Mumbai, Maharashtra BJP President Chandrakant Patil said: “The wounds suffered by Mumbaikars from the 1993 Mumbai blasts have still not healed. People who lost their family members in the blasts are still alive. All of them must have been pained today.”
Patil started his speech at the rally by requesting a minute’s silence for the victims of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. At least 257 persons died in the 12 blasts.
The Maharashtra BJP unit also tweeted that Shiv Sena is supporting Ibrahim today just to hold on to power and asked if this is the cost of innocent Mumbaikars’ lives.
“The Shiv Sena which says that it had hit the streets after the Mumbai blasts to protect residents has today hit the streets in support of the signatory of that Dawood who was responsible for the blasts,” the tweet said.
‘Uddhav Thackeray should show Thackeri bana’
The Shiv Sena has always touted its role in the 1992-93 Mumbai communal riots as a saviour of Mumbai’s Hindus. Before every Mumbai civic election, party leaders in their speeches talk about how Shiv Sainiks hit the streets during the riots supposedly in protection of Hindus.
After the 2017 BMC elections, when the Shiv Sena and the BJP, fighting as rivals, finished neck-and-neck with 84 and 82 seats of the total 227, respectively, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray blamed non-Marathi Hindus for forgetting the party’s role in saving their lives during the 1992 riots.
In the upcoming BMC election this year, the BJP is once again hoping to dislodge the Shiv Sena from its bastion.
Addressing a press conference Thursday, Maharashtra BJP’s chief spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said: “We have always heard that honourable Balasaheb Thackeray’s ‘Thackeri Bana’ (Thackeri pride) was famous… It is the CM’s right to decide who to keep in the cabinet and who to not to keep. But here the NCP directly decided and declared that Malik should not resign.
“The allegation is serious. He has had property dealings with international don Dawood because of whom so many had to die. Keeping Malik in the cabinet is sedition in a way,” he said.
‘BJP trying to instigate Shiv Sena with eye on BMC polls’
Most senior Shiv Sena leaders did not attend the MVA’s show of strength at Nariman Point to protest Malik’s arrest. A number of senior leaders such as Aaditya Thackeray, Sanjay Raut, Eknath Shinde and Priyanka Chaturvedi were campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, while a few such as Anil Prarab were out of Mumbai on a local annual pilgrimage. State Industries Minister Subhash Desai showed up at the protest for a while along with a few party MLAs and MLCs.
Upadhye taunted the Shiv Sena, saying: “Aggressive Shiv Sainiks must be feeling even today that they should not support someone linked to Dawood who tore apart the lives of so many Marathi people in Mumbai.”
Speaking to ThePrint, Shiv Sena MLC Manisha Kayande said: “Senior leaders were not able to attend the protests because they were tied up but we are wholeheartedly in support of Nawab Malik. The matter is 18 years old and he has already put facts in the public domain.”
She added: “The BJP is looking at the BMC election and trying to instigate the Shiv Sena by constantly talking about the 1993 blasts. The BJP tries to pull stunts before every election, and this is exactly that.”
Talking up Fadnavis’ work
While the Maharashtra BJP targeted the Shiv Sena for backing Malik on one side, on the other, it highlighted ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis’ efforts in first bringing allegations by Malik to the fore.
Malik’s arrest comes about three months after Opposition leader Fadnavis alleged that Malik had bought land at Kurla in Mumbai at a throwaway price from two men linked to the underworld. Fadnavis had even released official papers related to the transaction. Malik had refuted the charge, saying the purchase was legal.
The ED’s case for Malik’s custody in a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court was largely based on this transaction.
On Thursday, the Maharashtra BJP released a video on its social media pages from Fadnavis’ press conference in November where he is seen making allegations of links with the underworld against Malik.
In a post accompanying the video, the party said: “Thank you, Devendra Fadnavis ji. You exposed the true face of Nawab Malik before the public…Nawab Malik had financial transactions with the D Company that orchestrated blasts in Mumbai and killed Mumbaikars and the MVA is supporting this.”
धन्यवाद @Dev_Fadnavis जी!
जनतेसमोर नवाब मलिक यांचा खरा चेहरा आणलात. आतंकवाद्याची जमीन खरेदी करून, ती जमीन सेफ करणे हा गुन्हाच आहे.
बॉम्बस्फोट घडवून मुंबईकरांचे जीव घेणाऱ्या D कंपनी सोबत मंत्री @nawabmalikncp यांचे आर्थिक व्यवहार होते, त्याचं समर्थन MVA करत आहे.#DeshDrohiMVA pic.twitter.com/4E85TPOZcU
— भाजपा महाराष्ट्र (@BJP4Maharashtra) February 24, 2022