Mumbai: In his ongoing war of words with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik has for the first time directly targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alleging that former CM Devendra Fadnavis is the “mastermind” of the state’s drugs business.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Monday demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into what he alleged were Fadnavis’ links with drug traffickers.
Fadnavis, the former chief minister, denied all of Malik’s allegations, slamming them as “fuska fataka (damp fireworks)”. Addressing a press conference after Malik made the allegations, Fadnavis said, “After Diwali, I will bring a bomb. I will expose Nawab Malik’s underworld links and will send all evidence to (NCP chief) Shri Sharad Pawar ji too.”
Malik Monday also tweeted a photograph of Amruta Fadnavis, the former chief minister’s wife, with a person he said was Jaideep Rana, an alleged drug peddler. “Chalo, aaj BJP aur drugs peddler ke rishte pe charcha karte hain (Come, let’s discuss BJP and drug peddlers’ relations today),” he tweeted.
Malik alleged that a song titled ‘River Song’, sung by Amruta Fadnavis for the rejuvenation of Mumbai’s rivers, was financed by Rana. Devendra Fadnavis and the finance minister in his government, Sudhir Mungantiwar, had acted in the music video, he said.
Malik subsequently tweeted another photograph, this time of Fadnavis himself with the same person he said was Rana.
Addressing a press conference Monday, Malik claimed Rana is in jail for alleged drug trafficking.
“Fadnavis had a hand in getting Sameer Dawood Wankhede here too, and he was only brought here to keep netting innocent people for publicity, while allowing the drugs business to continue in Mumbai and Goa,” the Maharashtra minister alleged. “All drug business in Maharashtra is going on with the blessings of Devendra Fadnavis.”
“There is a question in my mind. Is Fadnavis the mastermind of the drugs business in Maharashtra? I will bring forward pictures of drug peddlers who were associated with the BJP… Under Fadnavis’ protection, a drug business was going on, and is going on. It is not a coincidence that he (Rana) is the financier of the song. You can see the closeness between them (Fadnavis and Rana) through the other picture,” he added.
‘Fadnavis would run his mayajaal from Niraj Gunde’s house’
Malik claimed that one Niraj Gunde, a person not associated with the government, allegedly had unfettered access to the CM’s office, house and all chambers of the civil service and the police during Fadnavis’ tenure, and is now often seen at the NCB office.
“Gunde would decide the transfers of all police, bureaucracy, and all extortion in Maharashtra was done through him. Fadnavis would often sit at Niraj Gunde’s house and run his mayajaal (web of illusions) from there,” the NCP leader claimed. “After the government changed, he can be seen going around all the central agencies in Mumbai, whether it is ED, CBI or Income Tax.”
Gunde did not respond to ThePrint’s calls and text messages asking for a response to these allegations.
Malik, who holds the skills development and minority affairs portfolios in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, has been holding almost daily press conferences since last week, making allegations about alleged wrongdoings by the NCB and its zonal head in Mumbai, IRS officer Sameer Wankhede.
Malik had earlier hinted at the BJP pulling the NCB’s strings to allegedly “fake” drug busts, including the 2 October case involving actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, to malign the image of the Maharashtra government.
Malik had questioned the presence of Manish Bhanushali, a BJP worker, at the site of the raid as well as at the NCB office before and after. He had also alleged that the NCB let off three persons detained in the case because one of them was related to BJP leader Mohit Bharatiya, earlier known as Mohit Kambhoj.
‘Will expose Nawab Malik’s links with the underworld’
Fadnavis strongly dismissed all allegations made by Malik, saying he only wants to “try and weaken his son-in-law’s chargesheet by pressurising the NCB”.
“Malik is saying the BJP has a drug connection. Then Nawab Malik’s son-in-law was caught with drugs. If you use the ratio of association that Malik is using, then the whole NCP should be a drug mafia,” the leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra assembly said.
“I don’t live in a glass house. People who have links with the underworld should not speak to me. I will put all evidence before you,” Fadnavis said. “Devendra Fadnavis does not make allegations lightly, and until date, he has not had to take back any allegation that he has made.”
Fadnavis dismissed Malik’s allegations of he and his wife having links with Rana. He said River March, the organisation that had released the music video, has clarified that their creative team had hired Rana.
“River March works for river rejuvenation in Mumbai. Their head had requested us and we had associated ourselves with the whole campaign. They had prepared a song then,” Fadnavis said.
“During the shoot of this song, these pictures were clicked by not just my wife, but the whole team. But deliberately, Nawab Malik has only shared the photo with my wife and you can clearly see the intention behind this. These people had come with River March so they are not associated with me or my wife in any way.”
On Malik’s allegations about his ties to Gunde, Fadnavis said, “There is no reason for us to deny our relation with Niraj Gunde. But, what is his offence? There is no case against him. No one has complained against him. Niraj Gunde has been exposing the NCP’s scams every day and tweets about it. If you (the NCP) have guts, then file a defamation case.”
Fadnavis also urged Malik to first ask Maharashtra CM Thackeray about Gunde. He said the Shiv Sena president has perhaps visited Gunde’s house on more occasions than Fadnavis, and Gunde too has visited Matoshree, Thackeray’s personal residence, more often than Fadnavis has.
In his press conference, Malik had dismissed suggestions of Thackeray having links with Gunde. He said Gunde was the BJP’s emissary for the party’s alliance talks with the Shiv Sena and his meetings with Thackeray were only for that purpose.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)