Mumbai: Politics in Maharashtra in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections took another twist on Tuesday as Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash Ambedkar on Tuesday raked up the oft-repeated issue of fugitive mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar's purported offer to surrender.
At a media briefing here, Ambedkar claimed that Dawood was willing to surrender in 1993, but the then Chief Minister and present Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar allegedly took no steps in the matter.
"The proposal had gone through then Rajya Sabha member, Raj Jethmalani... I was also a member of the upper house and we were friends. He mentioned this to me.
"It was up to the PM to decide on what terms and conditions the mafia don could have been brought back. He (Pawar) must clarify whether he had informed the then Prime Minister (P.V. Narasimha Rao) or kept the information to himself," Ambedkar demanded.
However, the NCP hit back at Ambedkar, wondering why he was raising the issue of Dawood's reported readiness to surrender - which has been a matter of debate since over 25 years.
"This is being done to help the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming elections. Pawar has repeatedly made it clear in the past that the terms and conditions on which the fugitive criminal sought to surrender were not acceptable to the government," NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.
"Moreover, he wondered if Jethmalani was such a nationalist, then why didn't he inform the Interpol about meeting Dawood. Later, he was a Union minister and there was a BJP government twice in the centre and state. Then why they could not get Dawood to surrender? Did Jethmalani ever raise the issue with the BJP government or not?" he asked.
Malik also questioned the "motives" of Ambedkar in highlighting the issue now, and asked if it was intended to benefit the BJP, particularly since the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi-All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen alliance is fighting the Lok Sabha polls independently in Maharashtra's 48 parliamentary constituencies.
The alliance, led by Ambedkar and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, has decided to put up candidates in all seats after its talks with the Congress-NCP collapsed last week.
Incidentally, in September 2017, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray had publicly stated that Dawood was very ill and wanted to return to India and spend his final days here.
However, he alleged that the Modi government would claim this return as its "big achievement" and exploit it for political gains.