The statement of Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray that the National Investigation Agency is probing only the Elgar Parishad case and not the Bhima Koregaon matter surprised many. Reacting to the NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s remarks that there should be an SIT probe into the matter, the chief minister Thackeray said that his government would probe the Bhima-Koregaon violence while the Elgar Parishad case would be investigated by the NIA.
Political observers here feel that the chief minister Thackeray has succumbed to the pressure of NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, who has now become the “remote control” of the coalition government.
While justifying his statement, Thackeray said that the Elgar Parishad and Bhima Koregaon are two separate topics. “The issue facing my Dalit brothers is about Bhima Koregaon and I will not give it to the Centre. I want to make it clear that there will be no injustice to Dalit brothers,” he said.
The remarks came from Thackeray after the NCP chief Pawar had publicly expressed his unhappiness over Thackeray’s decision to hand over the Elgar Parishad probe to the NIA. The NCP is a key constituent of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, along with the Congress party. While criticising Uddhav, the NCP supremo said that the chief minister was wrong in letting the NIA take over the probe into the Elgar Parishad case from the police. On Monday evening, the NCP had said that the state government will conduct its own probe by forming a Special Investigation Team (SIT).
However, opinion-makers, intellectuals and even some Sena legislators and its leaders took a strong exception over Pawar’s extra-constitutional power in the state cabinet. They are also unhappy that the way the Maharashtra home minister, Anil Deshmukh takes briefs from the NCP chief time to time and “takes orders from him,” on several issues is totally unconstitutional. It would be a dangerous trend if the Home Minister Anil Deshmukh continues to work as a “proxy” of Pawar.
Legal experts feel that such style of functioning of the home minister Deshmukh amounts breach of oath of office and oath of secrecy , taken as Minister which is highly objectionable sharing confidential information related to national security to party supremo. The governor can take an appropriate action against such breach of oath.
The Constitution in Third Schedule provides the form of oath — “I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as a minister for the Union except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as such minister.”
The question of breach of an oath of office by a Cabinet Minister was held to be out of judicial review and falls within the discretionary domain of the Chief Minister or the Governor as per the doctrine of pleasure, they further pointed out.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial the next day. The Pune police have claimed the conclave was backed by the naxalites, and arrested activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links. Pawar, who made it possible for the Shiv Sena, Congress, and the NCP to come together to form the government in the state, had demanded a probe by the special investigation team (SIT) and is still resisting NIA probe.
However, Pawar overlooked the fact that the arrested persons, such as Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha represent different states and were operating from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi as alleged naxalite sympathisers. As there is a naxalite connection in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, it also poses threat to national security and hence the matter is being probed by a national investigation agency.
Of them, Gautam Navlakha was detained by the Kashmir police in 2011 at the Srinagar Airport for his alleged pro-Pakistan stance by the then Omar Abdullah government of National Conference, an ally of UPA in which Pawar’s NCP is a partner. Besides, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested in 2007 for their alleged links to the naxalite movement by the then Maharashtra government and incidentally RR Patil, a trusted lieutenant of Pawar, was the Home minister during the period. Later police claimed that Ferreira was in charge of the propaganda and communications wing of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) while Gonsalves was the chief of Maharashtra unit of the banned outfit. Moreover, it’s a well-known fact that Varavara Rao, Dhawle and Bharadwaj have links with Maoist organisation. Can the state government deny these facts and assert that it has no links with the Maoist organisation which was once termed as the greatest internal security threat to the country by the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the NCP chief Pawar who served as the union agriculture minister under him. Now the question is that how a matured politician, like Pawar is compromising with the national security for his own “selfish” goal?
A piqued Pawar accused the BJP of harbouring “an acute fear” of being disrobed in the Koregaon-Bhima-Elgar Parishad case and chose to post-haste hand it over to the NIA. He reiterated his demand for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to conduct an in-depth independent investigation to “unravel the truth” over the Pune Police’s probe into the case and “directed” the state to initiate a parallel enquiry into the matter.
This tussle is not just between the Centre and Maharashtra. It is also between the Shiv Sena and the NCP, both major partners in the Maharashtra government. Their stand on the matter reflects the pressure of their voter bases. NCP’s voters are secular, whereas the Sena is a Hindutva party.
The development has given an indication that differences of allies are growing day by day. The differences grew further when Thackeray gave his assent to National Population Register (NPR), a move criticised by both, NCP and the Congress. So, there was a clash and we must understand that such clashes are eminent in the future.