For weeks together, Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, dominated the headlines following his arrest in a drug bust case. Late last week he was released on bail, and all is mostly quiet at his end.
A surprising offshoot has been a belligerent war of words, tweets and actions being waged by Nawab Malik, the Maharashtra Minorities Minister. His salvos against Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mumbai director Sameer Wankhede and key BJP leaders have almost become a daily feature, with accusations and counter-accusations being hurled at a baffling speed.
Wankhede has been at the centre of allegations of extortion in the Aryan Khan case. He has been accused — mostly by Malik — of furnishing a false caste certificate to land a government job, using extortion and bribery at work, and indulging in phone-tapping, among others. So much so that the cruise ship rave party case has changed direction. While Aryan and friends await trial, Wankhede is facing a departmental vigilance probe. The narrative has shifted to how the NCB is being operated — be it the laws governing it, or how its officials go about their job.
“You’ll see that the situation has completely changed,” news agency ANI quoted Malik as saying. “The man (Wankhede) who was dragging Aryan Khan to the NCB office is now behind bars. The man who was doing everything to ensure that Aryan Khan and others are not given bail was knocking on the court’s door yesterday.” The latter reference was to Kiran Gosavi, a witness in the NCB case, who was arrested by the Pune police last week on cheating charges.
Ever since the Aryan scandal began, in early October, Malik has been grabbing eyeballs with his cryptic tweets on NCB Mumbai and its head. While the case played out, Malik’s press interactions became an everyday event.
Who is Nawab Malik?
Nawab Malik, a five-time MLA, hails from Uttar Pradesh, but his family has been living in Mumbai for decades. He’s quick to point out his Maharashtrian domiciliary roots when his opponents hint that he’s an ‘outsider’. He’s the chief spokesperson of the National Congress Party (NCP), and the president of its Mumbai unit. He holds the Minority Affairs cabinet post in his party’s coalition government with the Shiv Sena.
Political observers note that Malik was one of the lesser-known leaders outside of Maharashtra, until the Aryan Khan case broke out. Today, it is next to impossible to read the papers or watch the news on TV without coming across his name.
Media reports recall that doubts on the authenticity of the case against Aryan were first triggered by Malik’s press meet on October 6. There, he raised questions on the presence of Gosavi, a BJP worker, at the NCB. He demanded to know how Gosavi, a non-official, could escort the star son to the NCB office post raid.
Malik followed up that press conference with successive releases of documents and scam allegations that increasingly raised concern on the working of the NCB. Wankhede, who Malik says is a Muslim, has been accused of claiming scheduled caste status to land a plum job with the government. He has been accused of tapping phones and taking bribes.
Further, Malik has accused BJP leaders including former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of having links with drug dealers. Meanwhile, Malik’s rivals have accused him of attacking the NCB over a personal grouse — the Bureau had arrested his son-in-law Sameer Khan in a drugs case and kept him in jail from January to September this year.
Defamation cases have been filed against the NCP leader, who claims he could even face murder attempts, but won’t back down. The Aryan Khan case, and the allegations against the BJP leaders and Wankhede, may or not end in any legal action. However, Malik as a national newsmaker is here to stay.