Mumbai: At about 6 am Wednesday, officials from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) reached Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Nawab Malik’s residence. After an hour, they took him along with them to the ED office in Mumbai.
After almost eight hours of questioning in connection with a money laundering case involving activities of the Mumbai underworld, Malik walked out of the ED office, under arrest by the central agency. The narrative that he chose to spin though was not that of an accused, but one of a rebel.
His body language was triumphant, his gait confident. He raised his right hand a couple of times in a sign of victory, before smiling and waving to his supporters and getting into a vehicle, escorted by a policeman.
As he got into his car, Malik said to reporters, “Ladhenge, jeetenge, sabko expose karenge.” (We will fight, we will win, we will expose everyone).
Malik, as well as other senior leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) such as NCP’s Sharad Pawar, Congress’ Balasaheb Thorat and Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut have made public statements suggesting ED’s action against Malik, terming it as just vendetta politics.
An NCP minister in Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, Malik had, since October last year, raised his pitch against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), making allegations against its leaders, such as calling Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis the “mastermind” of the drug racket in Maharashtra.
The BJP also retaliated, with Fadnavis making claims of Malik having links with the underworld. In November last year, Fadnavis alleged that a company owned by a family member of Malik’s had bought land at a throwaway price from two men linked to the underworld. Malik had strongly denied “any relation with either Haseena Parkar (the alleged family member) or any gang lords” and maintained that the land was purchased legally.
The constant attacks on the BJP and the counter attacks have helped raise Malik’s political profile, said political watchers.
How Nawab Malik became a household name
Beginning early October, Nawab Malik of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) regularly released cryptic tweets — there was a post a day last week — with regards to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and its zonal head in Mumbai, Sameer Wankhede.
Reporters and television cameras subsequently rushed to the NCP leader’s home office in Mumbai’s dense suburb of Kurla to glean the next sensational update in the NCB’s controversial alleged drug busts over the past year under Wankhede. These included the alleged raid on a Goa-based cruise ship that led to the arrest of actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan on 2 October, and another case involving Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Khan.
The press interaction became the daily news fix in the Aryan Khan case.
Malik’s allegations against Wankhede, and the latter’s rebuttals, took away some of the focus from Aryan Khan and etched a side narrative, with the five-time MLA as the protagonist.
Although Malik is the chief spokesperson of the NCP, the president of the party’s Mumbai unit and a cabinet minister (holding the minority affairs and skill development portfolios) in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the leader’s political influence until now was largely limited to his home turf of Kurla and his constituency of Anushakti Nagar, NCP leaders and political watchers say.
However, the Malik-versus-Wankhede narrative has made the NCP leader a household name, part of everyday drawing room discussions.
It was Malik who first sowed the seeds of suspicion in the Aryan Khan case, when he held a press conference on 6 October, questioning the alleged presence of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) karyakarta Manish Bhanushali and Kiran Gosavi, a person not associated with the NCB, at the site of the raid.
He also questioned how Gosavi was seen escorting Aryan to the NCB office in videos that went viral after the raid.
“Overall, Nawab Malik’s political stature has swelled because of this. This will help the NCP create a base in Mumbai. And if his allegations reach some kind of a conclusion, Malik will gain even more prominence,” said political analyst Hemant Desai.
“In a way he has become the MVA’s Kirit Somaiya, fishing out documents and making allegations of scams. His daily press conferences have in fact muted Somaiya’s ongoing attacks at least for the time,” he added, referring to the BJP leader known to release purportedly incriminating documents against leaders of the MVA government.
ThePrint reached Malik by calls for a comment, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
Malik says he doesn’t like religion-based politics
Malik, 62, who originally hails from Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh, moved to Mumbai during his early years, studying in the city’s Burhani College. Malik started his political career with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Mumbai, contesting his first election in 1995 from the then Nehru Nagar assembly seat. Malik lost the election, but soon got a second shot.
In 1996, the Supreme Court set aside incumbent Shiv Sena MLA Suryakant Mahadik’s election from Nehru Nagar, saying “he, his election agent and workers have committed corrupt practice” under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Mahadik was alleged to have campaigned on religious lines for the election.
Malik won the subsequent bypoll. He has won every poll since then, barring the 2014 state election, which he lost. However, despite the Modi wave, his margin of defeat was slim at 1,007 votes.
Said an NCP leader who did not wish to be named, “Nawab Malik and I joined the NCP around the same time. During his early days as an MLA of the Samajwadi Party, I remember him taking to the streets and protesting a lot of times. He had once set fire to the Action Taken Report on the 1993 riots filed by the then Shiv Sena-BJP government outside the House.”
In 1999, when the Congress and the NCP defeated the incumbent Shiv Sena-BJP government and formed a coalition government, with the SP as partner, Malik was inducted as a minister of state.
Malik joined the NCP in November 2001, a month after he was expelled from the SP for “anti-party activities”. Malik was allegedly not following the party’s directives and had even attempted to pressure SP state chief Abu Azmi to take back cases filed against Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, the party’s spokesperson Majeed Memon had told reporters then. Majeed himself resigned from the SP three years later and is currently an NCP Rajya Sabha MP.
Malik, however, described it differently. In a video Malik shared on his Facebook page in May 2019, he said, “In this period, I had some ideological differences with other leaders of the Samajwadi Party in Mumbai. I was against politics based on religion. Some leaders were trying to run the Samajwadi Party like a Muslim league and I opposed it.”
Now, the leader is himself facing allegations from rival BJP of politicking on communal lines with his constant attempts to prove that IRS officer Sameer Wankhede is originally Muslim.
Among the allegations he has levelled against Wankhede is that he committed fraud by joining the civil services under the Scheduled Caste quota as he is Muslim. Dalit Muslims are not eligible for benefits under the reservation.
So far, Malik has publicised Wankhede’s purported birth certificate, which shows his father’s name to be Dawood Wankhede, and the nikahnama (marriage certificate) from his first marriage to a Muslim woman (Wankhede’s rebuttal was that he comes from a “multi-religious and secular” family and he denied Malik’s allegations of fraud).
Sameer Dawood Wankhede का यहां से शुरू हुआ फर्जीवाड़ा pic.twitter.com/rjdOkPs4T6
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) October 25, 2021
This is the 'Nikah Nama' of the first marriage of
'Sameer Dawood Wankhede' with Dr. Shabana Quraishi pic.twitter.com/n72SxHyGxe
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) October 27, 2021
However, Malik maintains that his allegations are not meant to create religious divides or question Wankhede’s Muslim faith.
I want to make it clear that the issue i am exposing of Sameer Dawood Wankhede is not about his religion.
I want to bring to light the fraudulent means by which he has obtained a caste certificate to get an IRS job and has deprived a deserving Scheduled Caste person of his future
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) October 27, 2021
Nawab Malik versus Anna Hazare
Malik was made housing minister in the state cabinet after he joined the NCP, but had to resign from his post in 2005 following graft allegations in a project. Social activist and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare led an agitation demanding an inquiry into the graft allegations.
Hazare had also levelled corruption charges against three other ministers — Suresh Jain, Padamsinh Patil and Vijaykumar Gavit — who were all with the NCP at the time.
Malik resigned after the Justice Sawant Commission, probing the allegations, indicted him. The leader, however, maintained that it was the previous Shiv Sena-BJP government that had taken “illegal decisions” in the Zariwala chawl housing project.
In a May 2019 Facebook video detailing his journey in the NCP, Malik said, “There was a lot of uproar and I tendered my resignation, but the Supreme Court after 12 years gave a decision that the decision taken by the minister then was right… In the interim, I was made minister again in 2008. I worked as labour minister, won the 2009 polls from Anushakti Nagar after delimitation.”
Malik and Hazare butted heads again in 2019 when the former slammed the octogenarian as corrupt. Malik alleged that Hazare takes money from advocates to stage protests and go on hunger strikes. Hazare served a legal notice on Malik for his comments.
With NCP president Sharad Pawar known to hold Hazare in high regard, Malik later issued a written apology. “I did not wish to hurt your feelings. After you told the television news channels, you did not wish to prolong the war of words, a senior leader of my party has expressed regret over this incident. You are like a father figure and if any statement has hurt you, please accept my heartfelt apologies,” he wrote.
Growth within the NCP
Over the past decade, Malik has been a prominent face in the NCP. He was appointed the party’s chief spokesperson in 2012.
In 2019, Malik got an even bigger responsibility. He was appointed the party’s president for its Mumbai unit after incumbent Sachin Ahir resigned from the NCP to join the Shiv Sena.
However, a senior NCP leader who did not wish to be named said Malik hasn’t had a major influence yet as the party’s Mumbai president.
“He hasn’t done much in his capacity as NCP Mumbai president but then he didn’t really get an opportunity. Immediately after he took over the post, his focus was on getting himself elected in the 2019 assembly election as he had lost in 2014. So he focused on his constituency. Then he became a minister in this government, a task that also takes a lot of his time.
“But then, the way he is taking down the NCB and Sameer Wankhede goes a long way in helping the party ahead of the 2022 Mumbai civic elections and also cementing his image as a strong leader,” he added.
Malik also seems to be aware what his confrontation with the BJP, and his arrest by ED can do to his political stature, especially at a time with leaders across non-BJP ruled states are crying foul over the use of central agencies by the BJP government.
He is soaking in the limelight. A little before his arrest, his office released an old byte of Malik from December on his official Twitter handle .
It said, “Since the last few days, ED’s officials are giving information to reporters that there will be raids at Nawab Malik’s house…They should just let me know when I have to go, I am ready to go to the ED office myself.”
The tweet that followed was after his arrest. In the picture, Nawab Malik stood at the wrought iron gates of the ED office with his fist up. “Main jhukega nahi,” said the caption.
— Office of Nawab Malik (@OfficeofNM) February 23, 2022
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)