Under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Maharashtra ex-minister and Shiv Sena Deputy Leader Arjun Khotkar announced that he is joining the rebel faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, here on Saturday.
Declaring his intentions at a crowded media conference, Khotkar said that he held detailed discussions with Shiv Sena President and ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut on his decision.
“I have explained to them the compulsions – which all are aware – behind my decision, the harassment to my family… I am forced to make certain decisions… And they (Thackeray-Raut) have understood my predicament,” said an emotional Khotkar, without naming the ED.
To a query, he said that when a person is facing a crisis, he will seek protection from somewhere – an indirect indictment of the central agency which is probing him and his family since the past over two years.
On the central agency probe against him, Khotkar reeled off figures of financial deals pertaining to the alleged illegal auction sale of the Jalna Cooperative Sugar Factory Ltd. by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) and claimed he was innocent.
A couple of days ago, Raut lauded Khotkar for displaying courage and admitting to the harassment by the ED which had compelled him to take the decision (to switch sides to Shinde camp).
Seven months after he was raided in November 2021, last month (June 2022), the ED attached Khotkar’s properties under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the FIR lodged by the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai Police.
Among other things, the investigators claimed that the sugar mill was fraudulently sold by the MSCB to the relatives or associates of the bank’s officials and directors flouting norms.
Khotkar’s move came after he called on Shinde, another rebel ex-minister Abdul Sattar and a union minister in the past couple of days.