Senior opposition leader Sharad Pawar, named in a money laundering case, said he would appear before the investigating authorities before he gets busy with the coming state elections. "They should not think I'm not available," he told reporters today, after announcing that he would go to the office of the Enforcement Directorate on Friday.
The veteran leader -- who said in the morning that he would be "pleased" to go to jail as he has never experienced it -- also declared that, "Maharashtra follows the ideology of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We don't know bowing down before the Delhi takht (throne)".
Mr Pawar has questioned the timing of the case, given the assembly election in the state is barely a month away. "I would have been surprised had such action not been taken against me after the kind of response I receive during my visits to various districts of the state," said the leader, who, in alliance with the Congress, is taking on the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.
At an election rally last week, Mr Pawar had taken a swipe at Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who had targeted him at a rally and questioned what he had done for Maharashtra.
"One leader from their party (BJP) questioned what Sharad Pawar has done. I would like to say one thing, Sharad Pawar has never been to jail for whatever good or bad things he did. Those who were in jail for months are asking what I have done," Mr Pawar retorted, apparently referring to a case against Mr Shah, in which he was discharged.
This morning the 78-year-old leader said: "I have no problem if I have to go to jail. I'll be pleased as I've never had this experience. If someone plans to send me to jail, I welcome it".
Though the Nationalist Congress Party chief has been named in a complaint regarding a Rs. 25,000-crore scam involving the sanction of loans by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, the police FIR does not list him as an accused even thought the complainant calls him 'kingpin'. His nephew Ajit Pawar has also been named.
While a large number of NCP leaders are allegedly involved in the running of the bank, Mr Pawar is not one of them. Earlier, he had "thanked" the Enforcement Directorate for naming him in connection with a bank he is not related to in any way.
The case involves alleged violation of banking laws and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines while disbursing loans to the state's sugar factories and spinning mills. Many of those who sanctioned the loans were allegedly linked to the owners of the mill owners.
After an order from the Delhi High Court, a case was filed last month by the Maharashtra Police. Later, the Enforcement Directorate started an investigation into possible money-laundering.