Mumbai: At a time when the opposition is alleging that the BJP is misusing central agencies against them, one of the party’s own members — Pankaja Munde — got surprise visitors at her sugar factory in Beed district’s Parli.
The Vaidyanath Sugar Factory was reportedly raided by Goods and Services Tax (GST) officials on Thursday, allegedly over evasion.
“I spoke to GST authorities. I asked them why such a sudden action. Their reply was there was an order from the top,” Pankaja, the daughter of the late senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, told reporters in Beed on Thursday.
The Vaidyanath Sugar Factory is currently non-operational.
The GST department’s action against Munde’s sugar factory was reportedly in connection with alleged evasion to the tune of Rs 12 crore.
A day before the raid, Munde was seen sharing the dais with her estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde, a member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and former state minister, at a program in Beed’s Bhagwangad.
Pankaja Munde was a cabinet minister in the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena government from 2014-2019 but she was defeated in the 2019 assembly elections by Dhananjay. The cousins were not estranged at the time.
Since then, Munde has not had a chance to come back to the Maharashtra Vidhan Bhavan, as she was not considered as a nominee during the MLC elections.
Munde, an OBC leader, has in the past publicly expressed her differences with Fadnavis.
ThePrint reached Pankaja Munde for a comment via calls and even left a message to her team. This report will be updated once a response is received.
NCP national spokesperson Clyde Crasto said if the BJP ordered the raid because of the cousins’ bettering relationship, it’s “rather shameful”.
“Let the law take its course. But if the BJP has done this because of the easing out of her relationship with Dhananjay Munde, then it’s rather shameful,” he said. “But we have seen how the BJP tries to muzzle the voices of those whose clout is growing within the party. The raid could be one example.”
Political analyst Pratap Asbe agreed, adding that Munde’s growing closeness to Dhananjay could be one of the reasons behind the raid. “There was also a talk that she was on her way to join the Shiv Sena (UBT). Of course, only she can confirm or deny this. These could be the reasons for the raid.
However, a BJP leader requesting anonymity denied this.
“She hasn’t been targeted or anything. It is definitely not the case,” the leader said. “It is as per the law, whatever is happening. And as and when some things are noticed, action is taken then.”
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Speaking to reporters Thursday, Munde said she hadn’t known about the raid, adding that it was not really a raid and the GST officials had come to collect some documents.
She said she had already submitted the documents related to GST and even spoken to the officials a few days ago, which made the move “surprising”.
“The sugar factory has a Rs 250 crore loan. We have already paid Rs 152 crore. There was no question of hiding anything. The Rs 12 crore GST will be paid. There was no intention to evade any tax,” she added.,
She admitted that the factory had been facing financial troubles. for the last six to seven years.
The drought from 2013 to 2015 affected it badly and the Covid pandemic compounded the crisis, she said.,
She said that she was the chairperson of the factory from 2014-2019 and is currently serving an extension.
“We had also taken up this issue with Cooperation Minister Amit Shah. I had informed the central leadership about the financial crisis and loss of the sugar factory,” she said. “We sought the government’s help for sick sugar mills.”
Pankaja & BJP
Pankaja Munde, who is believed to be close to Union minister Nitin Gadkari, is believed to have been sidelined in the party as a chasm emerged between the old guard and new guard under Fadnavis.
When the new government was formed under the leadership of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Munde was not made a part of the government.
A couple of days ago, Pankaja and Dhananjay shared the dais at a spiritual program of the Wanjari community, from which the Mundes come.
Talking at the event, she said, “Earlier, political people used to pray that things shouldn’t work out between us (Dhananjay and her)… when things are working out, they are trying to come in between us. This is politics.
Pankaja was inducted as secretary in JP Nadda’s central BJP team and named co-in charge of Madhya Pradesh state in 2020.,
But she is said to be keen on working in Maharashtra, and is also expected to change her constituency from Parli, according to a report in the Hindustan Times,
However, speaking to the reporters on Thursday, Munde said she kept getting suggestions from party workers and her followers about contesting from various constituencies but she is not going anywhere as of now.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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