In a massive jolt to Maharashtra's Maha Vikas Aghadi government, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested serving Minister Nawab Malik in connection with an alleged money-laundering case linked with a shady land deal case.
The development came as a shocker for the MVA as Malik became the first sitting Cabinet Minister to be arrested in such a manner, sending tremors in the political establishment.
In the arrest order, ED Assistant Director Niraj Kumar said the agency had "reason to believe" that Nawab Malik "has been found to be guilty of an offence punishable under the provisions of PMLA Act", and accordingly placed him under arrest at around 2 p.m.
Shortly after the formal arrest, Malik was whisked off by an ED team for a medical check-up at the Sir J.J. Hospital, and produced before the designated Special PMLA Court later this afternoon.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Desai is representing the ED while eminent lawyer Amit Desai appeared on Malik's behalf, as the Minister's relatives, including sister and daughter Sana Khan reached the court.
As he was escorted out of the ED office by police and ED sleuths, a grinning Malik sporting a white kurta-pyjama, was seen raising a fist in the air, and declaring: "Jhukenge nahin, ladenge aur jeetenge (Will not succumb, will fight and win)" to his supporters as he was made to sit in a vehicle.
The fast-paced developments started with an ED team, accompanied by Central Industrial Security Force personnel, knocking at Malik's home around 4.30 a.m and taking him away a couple of hours later for questioning in the 17-year-old Kurla land deal having a mafia taint, with an alleged money-laundering angle emerging from it.
The ED had summoned teams of the CISF and Mumbai Police security for the arrest even as a large number of Nationalist Congress Party workers staged a noisy protest outside the agency's office since morning to protest the proceedings against Malik.
Malik, 62, becomes the first sitting minister and second senior NCP leader to be arrested by the ED after former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on November 2, 2021 in alleged corruption and money-laundering cases.
His arrest triggered hectic political activity with NCP President Sharad Pawar going to meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil and other ministers for an urgent meeting this evening.
Leaders of MVA constituents like Sharad Pawar, Jayant Patil, Supriya Sule, Majeed Memon, Chhagan Bhubal, Vidya Chavan, Sanjay Raut, Kishore Tiwari, Nana Patole, Ashok Chavan and others slammed the ED for the action against Malik saying they would not be "cowed down" by the political vendetta and targetting of opponents and "silencing" them by letting loose central probe agencies on them.
Simultaneously, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party sharpened its swords and intensified efforts to bring down the MVA government before its declared deadline of March 10.
BJP state President Chandrakant Patil demanded that since he has been nabbed, Malik should quit - as also all other ministers facing various allegations, should resign from the Cabinet immediately, failing which the BJP would launch an agitation on the streets.