The Enforcement Directorate had yesterday carried out multiple raids at the residences and office premises of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik. At least 10 locations spanning across Mumbai and Pune were searched by the ED officials, allegedly in connection with a money laundering case linked to the legislator.
A senior Enforcement Directorate official said the searches were being carried out at locations in Mumbai and Thane linked to promoters of a private company and some politicians.
Pratap Sarnaik, the chairman of Vihang Group Of Companies, a major player in the real estate industry in Thane region, represents Ovala-Majiwada in the state assembly. He is also the spokesperson of Shiv Sena in Mira-Bhayander, a city in Thane district.
Pratap Sarnaik drove autorickshaw to make ends meet in the 1980s
However, Sarnaik’s relative affluence and his growing stature in the Shiv Sena party is a recent phenomenon. According to a report published in the Indian Express, back in the 1980s, Sarnaik drove an autorickshaw and was struggling to make ends meet. Subsequently, he made a fortune by the reality sector boom that swept Mumbai and the adjoining regions in recent decades.
Sarnaik’s political journey did not start from Shiv Sena. He was earlier associated with Pawar’s NCP. Sarnaik first hogged the limelight in 2008 when he gifted a diamond-studded cell-phone worth a staggering Rs 15 lakhs in 2008 to his former boss, NCP’s Ajit Pawar.
Induction into Shiv Sena propelled Sarnaik’s political and personal fortunes
But his association with the NCP came to an end over a perceived insult over the appointment of the leader of opposition in Thane Municipal Corporation. He jumped ship and joined the Shiv Sena in November 2009 and since then his political career took off at an inexorable pace, catapulting him on the path to becoming three-time MLA from Ovla-Majhiwada constituency in Thane.
Interestingly, not just his political fortunes, his personal fortunes also grew at an astounding rapidity after he joined the Shiv Sena. Since becoming an MLA in 2009 when he declared his personal assets at Rs 16 crores, Sarnaik’s assets have increased by nearly 800 per cent in the last decade. In the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, Sarnaik declared his personal assets worth Rs 143 crore.
With his Vihang Group of Companies, Sarnaik has a strong presence in Thane’s real estate sector and is a major player in the hospitality industry in and around Mumbai and Thane.
Sarnaik is also known for holding considerable clout in the Thane region and for his long rivalry with NCP’s Jitendra Awhad, who is the currently a cabinet minister in the Thackeray government. However, after Shiv Sena and NCP joined hands to form Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, Sarnaik and Awhad had come together and were recently seen in a joint press conference over a housing scheme launched by the NCP leader.
As his personal affluence grew, so did his standing in the party. Sarnaik was announced as the party spokesperson in September this year. He also played an instrumental role in getting the Independent MLA Geeta Jain to join the Shiv Sena last month. Jain, a former BJP mayor of Mira Bhayander, had rebelled against the BJP candidate and won the Assembly polls last year.
Sarnaik’s younger son Purvesh, a Yuva Sena leader, is married to the daughter of former BJP minister Ranjit Patil.
MLA Pratap Sarnaik had threatened to break Kangana Ranaut’s mouth
In the last few months, Sarnaik has made his presence felt in Maharashtra politics by ratcheting up his criticism against the BJP. Besides, he has also been vehemently demanding re-investigation into the suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik, a case which was used by the Mumbai Police to arrest Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. Sarnaik had brought in privilege motions against Kangana Ranaut and Arnab Goswami in the previous session of the Assembly.
He had also demanded a drug probe against Kangana Ranaut. He was among the most vocal Shiv Sena leaders who had openly threatened actress Kangana Ranaut. Sarnaik had stated that Sena’s women workers will break Kangana Ranaut’s mouth if she enters Mumbai.