Successive probes into Maharashtra’s sugar factories have yielded nothing: Ajit Pawar

Deputy CM decries ‘wild allegations’ and attempts to ‘move Bollywood from Mumbai’

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar on Friday refuted all allegations levelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pertaining to the sale of sugar factories in the State as “baseless”, while claiming that the processes of selling these factories were carried out in a “strictly legal manner”.

Speaking here, Mr. Pawar took potshots at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath without naming the latter, remarking that while some people were trying to take Bollywood away from Maharashtra, the State and Mumbai city had “always remained the centre of the country’s filmmaking industry and would continue to remain so”.

Mr. Pawar, who had earlier promised that he would speak out in detail once the Income Tax raids on businesses owned by his relatives and aides had subsided, furnished information on the sale of more than 65 sugar factories in Maharashtra, which were carried out in the last few years under the tenures of both the erstwhile Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena governments.

“For many years, misleading news regarding Maharashtra’s sugar factories has been regularly coming out… Some [BJP leaders] alleged that staggering corruption to the tune ₹25,000 was committed during the sale of some factories, while some pegged the figure at ₹10,000 crore… when the BJP government came to power [in 2014], they had deployed State agencies, like the Criminal Investigation Department, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Economic and Offences Wing, to probe these so-called irregularities. But none of them could prove any financial misdemeanor whatsoever,” Mr. Pawar said.

He took thinly veiled jibes against BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, who has been spearheading his party’s “crusade” against alleged corruption committed by NCP leaders.

“The State agencies have already probed and found nothing…now, let the Central agencies probe further if they wish to… I have no free time like some people [Mr. Somaiya] to keep on uselessly lodging complaints with these agencies in a bid to launch further probes,” Mr. Pawar remarked.

While listing the names of sugar factories sited in the western Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of the State, the NCP leader observed that a number of them had been purchased by private players and realtors who later sold them to another buyer when the factory turned out to be a loss-making enterprise in some cases.

The Deputy Chief Minister said that the consistent allegations that were being made by the BJP against himself and his relatives regarding the allegedly illicit sale of the Satara-based Jarandeshwar factory were “thoroughly misleading” and had “no basis in fact”.

Earlier, Mr. Pawar visited the city’s iconic Balgandharva Rangmandir, which reopened for the first time along with other theatres, auditoriums and cinema halls in the State, after being shut for more than 18 months owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking there, he said that Bollywood would remain in Mumbai and that the State government would provide the best possible cooperation and facilities for its film industry to thrive.

“It is our government’s intention to provide the best facilities for the film city in Kolhapur district and for the State’s film industry in general…some Chief Ministers [Yogi Adityanath] have been signalling their intention of taking Bollywood away from Maharashtra…but our government is determined to give the best facilities here so that Mumbai, which has been the country’s filmmaking centre since the earliest days of our filmmaking history, remains that way,” Mr. Pawar said.

He further said that if the number of cases remained low, then the State government would take a call after Diwali to allow theatres and cinema halls to operate at full capacity rather than the current 50% capacity.

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