The state’s deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, NCP MP Supriya Sule, home minister Dilip Walse Patil, state NCP chief and water resources minister Jayant Patil, Congress leaders like revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, PWD minister Ashok Chavan and several others sat in protest at the Mahatma Gandhi statue near Mantralaya to protest against Malik’s arrest.
Shiv Sena leaders were conspicuous by their absence initially in the protest, but later industries minister Subhash Desai came to express his support. Sena leaders said that several leaders were travelling with environment and tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray to Uttar Pradesh and hence could not be at the site to express solidarity.
Unlike the previous incident when former home minister Anil Deshmukh had a case registered against him that led to his resignation, the MVA government has said that they would not ask Malik to tender his resignation after his arrest as the arrest was ‘motivated.’
From Jayant Patil to Chhagan Bhujbal, NCP ministers said there was no reason for Malik to resign and the party continued to back him. “There is no connection to Malik’s arrest and the charges, they are catching any Muslim and linking him with (underworld gangster) Dawood Ibrahim. This is a very convenient way to arrest Muslim people,” said Bhujbal at the protest site.
Malik’s daughter Nilofer Khan claimed that her father was framed in the case. “The remand application given by Enforcement Directorate claims that my father was a revenue minister, while everyone knows that my father was never a revenue minister, so the entire case is based on fraud. I am glad that the government has come out in support of my father,” said Nilofer Khan.
While the MVA is standing behind Malik for now, BJP carried out agitations in different parts of the state to demand Malik’s resignation as a minister. State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil warned that not getting Malik to resign may prove detrimental to the MVA government’s survival. “This is a clear case of President’s rule to be imposed, if he does not resign. What else do you need?” Patil asked, at a BJP agitation in Mumbai demanding Malik’s resignation. The state BJP chief has of late been talking about the MVA being a fit case for dismissal and the President’s rule being imposed in the state.