On Saturday, it was revealed that a Shiv Sena leader and currently an MLA – Pratap Sarnaik has direct links to Pakistan. Sarnaik, who is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case for quite some time now, was found in possession of a Pakistani credit card at his residence. The name on the card is that of a Pakistani national, yet, the registered address is that of Sarnaik’s residence. The agency has sought the credit card’s statement from Sarnaik. ED has even written to the concerned bank and asked for the details of the account.
In fact, Pratap Sarnaik has been on the ED’s radar for quite some time now, even as multiple raids have been conducted by the central agency at the former auto-rickshaw driver’s residence and official premises. The rickshaw driver turned real estate baron is now an influential Shiv Sena leader. What is interesting though, is the fact that Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani was arrested early Sunday morning by the Mumbai Police in the alleged ‘TRP scam’ case, a day after the ED uncovered the Shiv Sena leader’s Pakistani links.
Vikas Khanchandani has been remanded to two days of police custody, as opposed to the Mumbai Police’s desire of having the top media executive remanded to them on 14-day custody. The arrest of the Republic CEO comes in a series of arrests made by the Maharashtra Police of individuals linked to the Arnab Goswami-led media network. Goswami was himself arrested on November 4, after which the network’s distribution VP Ghanshyam Singh was also locked up for over 25 days. Now, Vikas Khanchandani being arrested only serves as further testimony to the fact that a vendetta campaign is being run against Republic Media Network on largely fabricated and fallacious charges.
However, it is not as if the Mumbai Police is having all the fun. In fact, the state police’s action, largely at the behest of its current political masters is fast snowballing into a larger state versus centre faceoff. It has now been reported that the ED has summoned Pratap Sarnaik’s youngest son, Purvesh Sarnaik to appear before the central agency and face them regarding a variety of issues, including the seizure of a Pakistani credit card from his father’s residence.
Already, the Shiv Sena, notwithstanding its own draconian measures suppressive of free media in the state, had alleged that the ED’s investigation and raids upon Pratap Sarnaik was part of a larger vendetta campaign being pursued by the BJP against the Sena for acting against Arnab Goswami. Interestingly, Sarnaik is the same Shiv Sena MLA who had moved a breach of privilege motion against Goswami and also sought to reopen the investigation into the suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik.
The ED is now turning the heat on Shiv Sena, even as the Mumbai Police and central agencies get embroiled in a faceoff over the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s ill-treatment of free and independent journalists.