Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik today dropped a "hydrogen bomb" - which the BJP laughed off as a phuljhadi - in the ongoing back-and-forth with ex-Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Their spat began with the arrest of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan in the drugs-on-cruise case.
Mr Malik said the senior BJP leader had "connections with underworld members" and that he, as Chief Minister, protected those behind a fake currency notes racket investigated by Sameer Wankhede - the NCB officer removed from the Aryan Khan case over Rs 8 crore payoff claims.
He also accused Mr Fadnavis of "diverting my issue", and said the former Chief Minister was trying to "defend one officer (Mr Wankhede) ... a man who is framing innocent people in fake cases"; Mr Malik has routinely accused the opposition BJP of using the anti-drugs agency to entrap Aryan Khan.
An hour later Mr Fadnavis responded with a quote from author George Bernard Shaw that said: "I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."
Thought of the day ???????? pic.twitter.com/PkLiHS3GVW— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) November 10, 2021
"You made people with connections to the underworld as heads. Did you not make Munna Yadav head of the Construction Workers Board? You made Haidar Azam President of the Maulana Azad Finance Corporation," Nawab Malik said today.
"When demonetisation happened in 2016 Modiji said it was to eradicate black money, terrorism and fake currency. (But) till October 8 (2017) no cases of fake notes were registered because, under Fadnavis' protection this was functioning," he continued.
The NCP leader said Rs 14.56 crore had been recovered then but Mr Fadnavis had "settled the case".
"One arrest happened in Mumbai and one in Pune... Recovery was reported at Rs 8 lakh, and the matter was settled. It was never sent to the NIA and the case never progressed... because those behind the racket were given protection," he claimed.
"They said it was a Congress leader (behind the racket) ... but it wasn't. The plan was to blame it on the Congress if they got caught. Haji Arafat Sheikh was made Chairman of the Minorities Commission. His brother, Imran, was involved in this crime and was caught," Mr Malik said.
"The investigator in charge was also Sameer Dawood Wankhede... (then with the DRI, or Directorate of Revenue Intelligence). The case was managed by Devendraji and Mr Wankhede," the minister said.
Nawab Malik also slammed Mr Fadnavis over Riyaz Bhati, an alleged aide of wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim who was arrested in Mumbai in October 2019 on charges of extortion.
"Riyaz Bhati was caught with two passports. Why was he seen with you at your programmes? How did Riyaz Bhati reach the Prime Minister when he came here? Devendraji... you used Riyaz for your work. All these things happened with your blessing," Mr Malik alleged.
The BJP's Ashish Shelar hit back shortly after, mocking Mr Malik over his claim of "hydrogen bombs".
"Those who claimed hydrogen bombs could not even burst sparklers. Yes, Munna Yadav, Haji Arafat and Haider Azam are party workers (but) there is not a single case against Arafat and Azam. They were included only after checking. None of this happened during Fadnavis' time," he claimed.
"Imran Alam Sheikh, who was caught with fake currency, was then a Congress secretary and is now a NCP worker," he added, also denying all links between Riyaz Bhati and the Prime Minister.
Yesterday Mr Fadnavis provided "proof" of Mr Malik's links to the underworld, claiming his rival had struck a property deal with a gangster convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
Earlier swipes between the two involved allegations Mr Fadnavis had appeared in a music video financed by a now-jailed drug peddler, and that Mr Malik is concocting claims to pressure Sameer Wankhede and the NCB into dropping a case against his son-in-law, Sameer Khan.
The row between the two erupted after Aryan Khan's arrest on October 3 in a case Mr Malik claims is "fake" and set up to target his father, Shah Rukh Khan. Last week Mr Malik also claimed Aryan, who was given bail after spending over 20 days in jail, had been "kidnapped for ransom".