Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Saturday said Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to allow the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the Elgar Parishad case was “not fair”.
Kharge’s comments came two days after Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sanjay Kumar said on Thursday that “the state home department has no objection to the case being entrusted to the NIA”, and a day after NCP president Sharad Pawar criticised the Chief Minister over the issue.
The Congress is one of the ruling constituents in the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, also comprising the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
“We are partners. Such things should be discussed. This isn’t fair. Power should be used judiciously,” Kharge, the AICC general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, told reporters.
The Maharashtra government’s sudden decision to allow the NIA to take over the probe from Pune Police after initially opposing it caused a flutter in the coalition government, with state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of the NCP saying on Thursday that the chief minister had “overruled” him in the matter.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parish ad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed had triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district the next day. The Pune police have claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
During the probe into the police, the Pune police arrested Left-leaning activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links.
While the NIA is empowered by law to take over any case in which the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is invoked, the Maharashtra government had expressed its discontent on the Centre’s move to transfer the case to NIA, thus triggering a political row between both sides.
Pune police have so far booked 23 persons and arrested nine among them for their alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist group. The police further alleged that the Elgaar Parishad, a conference organized at Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th commemoration of the battle of Koregaon Bhima, was held as part of the strategy of and with the funds given by CPI-Maoist.
Violence broke out between Dalits and Marathas in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. This happened a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits the following day.