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Rave party: NCP claims non-NCB personnel involved in ship raid



In a series of shocking revelations, a senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader on Wednesday alleged that two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists, including a ‘vice-president’, were involved in the raid conducted by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on the luxury ship Cordelia Cruise on October 2.

NCP national spokesperson and state Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik slammed the NCB operations, terming it as a ‘fraud’ in which BJP leader Manish Bhanushali and a so-called ‘private detective’ Kiran P. Gosavi were seen hauling out some of the accused, including Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan and Arbaaz Merchant.

Simultaneously, Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari, who has been accorded MoS rank, demanded the arrest of NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, while Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant urged the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to order a high-level independent probe into Malik’s allegations, which are of ‘extremely serious’ nature.

On its part, the NCB’s Deputy Director Gyaneshwar Singh admitted on Wednesday that the duo – Bhanushali and Gosavi – was among more than half-a-dozen of its ‘independent witnesses’ during the agency’s swoop on the deluxe vessel berthed at the International Cruise Terminal.

Malik had earlier said that Bhanushali had posted his photos with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President J.P. Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, state Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Devendra Fadnavis, plus current and former Central and state ministers, as well as other senior BJP leaders.

He said that Bhanushali was in New Delhi and Gandhinagar in the last week of September, especially on September 21-22 when a huge drug haul was made from the Mundhra Port in Gujarat.

“The BJP should tell the people who is this person and how does he have access to such top people? The NCB must clarify in what capacity these two persons (Gosavi and Bhanushali) were seen during the so-called raid and arrests. Gosavi also has a criminal record in Pune. Is the NCB taking help of people with a criminal background to nab other accused,” Malik asked.

Reacting sharply, BJP’s Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis (Assembly) and Pravin Darekar (Council) promptly dismissed Malik’s contentions and said that he was levelling the allegations out of ‘frustration’ as his son-in-law Sameer Khan was nabbed by the NCB in January 2021.

Attacking the NCB, Malik contended that the entire (raid) operation was fraudulent, which was carried out with the sole purpose of hogging publicity, as no drugs were found from the arrested persons, neither was any panchnama done.

“In the past few days, rumours are being circulated that Shah Rukh Khan will be the next target. You know the relations between him and the BJP,” Malik said, supporting his claims with a audio-video presentation.

“The BJP and the NCB must come clear. Who are these two persons and why were they seen in the so-called ship raid? Both these persons are fake, and the NCB raid was a fraud intended only for grabbing publicity. What are the BJP’s connections with both of them,” Malik asked.

A bearded and bespectacled Bhanushali, sporting a maroon shirt, was seen dragging out Merchant and the bald Gosavi was seen pulling Aryan Khan out of the International Cruise Terminal late on Saturday, shocking the country and rattling the entertainment industry.

Speaking to a private Marathi TV channel, Bhanushali said that he had given the tip-off about the rave party to the NCB and was accompanying them as a ‘witness’ to affix his signature on the relevant case papers. He also warned of filing defamation proceedings against Malik.

Malik reiterated that since the past one year after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the NCB is only targeting high-profile film personalities, and raids are carried out with an eye on hogging publicity, defaming the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and instilling fear in the minds of Bollywood people.

Accusing the NCB of not adhering to its mandate of busting inter-state or international narcotics rackets, he said the agency only guns for high-profile celebrities to get publicity.


Maha ATS lawyers to track Malegaon-2008 blast case hearing





Alarmed by witnesses turning hostile in the Malegaon-2008 blasts case, the Maharashtra government lawyers shall now remain in the Special NIA Court where the trial is being conducted on a daily basis, Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil said here on Saturday.

He told the media persons that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had taken over the case (from the state ATS), but the state government is perturbed at the manner in which several critical witnesses have become hostile in the Special Court.

The significant development came two days after the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ally Congress had raised the issue and drawn the attention of the Home Ministry and the ATS.

Congress state Working President M. Arif Naseem Khan had submitted a memorandum to the Additional Director-General of Police and ATS chief Vineet Agrawal urging necessary measures to monitor the case closely.

“We are thankful to Home Minister Walse-Patil for accepting our demand for a team to keep a track on the court proceedings. The presence of the ATS lawyers will help in a free and fair trial,” Khan said in a statement.

An ex-minister, Khan reiterated that the NIA is allegedly ‘weakening’ the Malegaon-2008 case and not pursuing it with ‘honesty and sincerity’.

In his memorandum to the ATS Chief Agrawal, Khan contended that the witnesses turning hostile are invoking the names of Bharatiya Janata Party-RSS leaders to “malign the Maharashtra government and ATS” for gaining political mileage in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

The September 29, 2008 (Malegaon 2008) bomb blast was allegedly engineered in this minority-dominated Nashik town by Hindu fundamentalists, killing 6 and injuring over 100 others, during the Ramadan month when Muslims were breaking their fast.

The Maharashtra Police and then the ATS probed the case till 2011 when it was taken over by the NIA, and the trial is going on daily before the Special NIA Court in Mumbai.

Of the 223 witnesses examined, 16 have turned hostile, claiming that the ATS tortured them to give evidence against the accused, said Khan, urging the need for the presence of the ATS in the court to protect the image of the Maharashtra government.

Among the accused in the sensational Malegaon 2008 case are BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Amritananda Dev Teerth, Dayanand Pandey, Lt. Col. Prasad S. Purohit, and others.

Khan said that the ATS was being sought to be tarnished as an ‘anti-Hindu’ agency with the witnesses, allegedly influenced by the accused, deliberately naming BJP-RSS people ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls for political gains.

“The NIA is not prosecuting all the accused with honesty and sincerity. Out of 223 witnesses who deposed so far, 16 important ones have turned hostile and over a 100 more are still left to be examined. These witnesses are crucial and need to be protected. The NIA has not challenged any orders passed in favour of the accused which shows their intentions clearly,” Khan said.

Some of the witnesses in Malegaon 2008 case even went beyond their recorded statement mentioning names like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, but the NIA’s Special Public Prosecutor took no objection, and another witness claimed he was tortured and threatened by the ATS to take names of Yogi and 4 RSS leaders.

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Maha Congress to appoint women as ‘working chiefs’ in 60 districts




Taking a cue from party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress’s Maharashtra unit on Friday announced that it will appoint a woman as Working President in all the party’s districts in the state.

“The Congress has a progressive tradition of giving important responsibilities to women in politics at all levels. Women leaders of Congress have held top posts like Prime Minister, President, Speaker, Governors, Chief Ministers, ministers, and other important positions. Taking ahead this glorious tradition, we shall now appoint a woman Working President in each of the 60 District Congress Committees (DCCs) in the state,” said state Congress President Nana Patole.

The move on Makar Sakaranti day follows the decision by Priyanka Gandhi to give 40 per cent representation to women candidates in the upcoming Assembly elections with her slogan “Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon”.

Patole added that the party has always respected women, given them equal opportunities and this measure would give a more active political participation to women in the state/

“It was during the Congress government that the revolutionary decision to reserve 50 per cent seats for women in local bodies elections and other landmark developments came,” he said.

Even now, Priyanka Gandhi has set a new standard with 40 per cent representation to women candidates for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls which is a major step towards the empowerment of the women, he said.

Though there are only 36 administrative districts in the state, the party has a total of 60 DCCs including four in Mumbai, three in Pune, two in Nanded, Parbhani, etc, said a spokesperson.

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Vaccine shortage in Maharashtra not factually correct: Health Ministry




 The Union Health Ministry on Friday clarified that there is no vaccine shortage in Maharashtra.

The ministry quoted some media reports which alleged vaccine shortage in Maharashtra, stating that such reports are incorrect.

“There have been some media reports alleging vaccine shortage in Maharashtra, further stating that due to lack of vaccine the state government is unable to increase the pace of vaccination. Such reports are ill-informed and incorrect,” the ministry said.

It further said that as per the reports available till date, Maharashtra has over 24 lakh unutilised doses of Covaxin, adding that an additional 6.35 lakh doses have been received on Friday.

The ministry said that as per the weekly consumption data available on Co-WIN, the average consumption by Maharashtra for Covaxin to cover the eligible beneficiaries in the 15-18 age bracket and for the precautionary dose is almost 2.94 lakh doses per day. Therefore, the state has adequate vaccine doses for about 10 days to cover the eligible beneficiaries with Covaxin, the ministry said.

The state has 1.24 crore unutilised and balance Covaxin doses available as on date. With an average consumption of 3.57 lakh per day, this will sustain for more than 30 days for the beneficiaries to be vaccinated using the vaccine, as per the ministry.

Earlier on Friday, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the state is facing a shortage of doses to ramp up the vaccination drive.

“We are facing a shortage of Covaxin and Covishield. We have demanded additional 50 lakh Covishield doses and 40 lakh Covaxin doses from the Central government,” said Tope.

However, the ministry said that vaccine shortage in Maharashtra does not reflect the correct picture of the available stock of balance and unutilised vaccine doses with the state.

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