The Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government in Maharashtra has been rocked by allegations of corruption against state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, levelled by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Leaders of the Shiv Sean are expected to meet Sharad Pawar in New Delhi to discuss the charges against Deshmukh, a close ally of the NCP chief. It is not clear if leaders of the Congress – the third party in the coalition – will attend the meeting.
The Federal puts the ongoing political drama in perspective…
The Charges Against Deshmukh
Earlier this week the government replaced Param Bir Singh over “unforgivable” lapses in the investigation into the Mukesh Ambani security scare.
On Saturday, Singh wrote a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray alleging that Deshmukh had asked Sachin Vaze, the ‘encounter specialist’ who was arrested and suspended from the police force for his role in the Ambani case – to collect ₹100 crore every month from business establishments in Mumbai.
A day earlier, Deshmukh had claimed that Singh was moved out so that cases pertaining to Vaze – who was reported to be close to the former commissioner – could be thoroughly investigated.
In his letter, Singh wrote: “Sachin Vaze who was heading the Crime Intelligence Unit of the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police was called by Shri Anil Deshmukh, Hon’ble Home Minister, Maharashtra to his official residence Dyaneshwar several times in last few months and repeatedly instructed to assist in collection of funds for the Hon’ble Home Minister…
“The Hon’ble Home Minister expressed to Shri Vaze that he had a target to accumulate Rs 100 crores a month. For achieving the aforesaid target, the Hon’ble Home Minsiter told Shri Vaze that there are about 1,750 bars, restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai and if a sum of Rs 2-3 lakhs each was collected from each of them, a monthly collection of Rs 40-50 crores was achievable. The Hon’ble Home Minister added that the rest of the collection could be made from other sources.”
Deshmukh has denied the charges and said he will sue Singh for defamation.
Sharad Pawar’s Response
On Sunday the NCP said a final decision on Deshmukh’s future will be taken at a meeting in New Delhi. Pawar, however, questioned the timing of the allegations. “The timing of these allegations against Anil Deshmukh has to be looked into. Why now? Param Bir Singh has made all these allegations after he was transferred,” Pawar told reporters in Delhi.
He said there is “no information on actual transaction of money. No information on any money being transferred to the home minister or his staff”.
The NCP chief said he would request Thackeray to hold an impartial investigation into the allegations, led by former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro. “Julio Ribeiro’s credibility is such that no one can interfere or influence his investigation,” he said.
Incidentally, in a piece for the Scroll news website last week, Ribeiro had called Vaze the former commissioner’s “blue-eyed” boy.
The Case Against Vaze
Sachin Vaze allegedly met Mansukh Hiran on February 17, the very day Hiran’s Scorpio 4X4 was stolen, shows a CCTV footage which has now emerged. A week later, on February 25, the same 4X4 was found parked outside Ambani’s multi-storeyed house on Carmichael Road with explosives (gelatin sticks) and a letter of threat for the Ambani family.
The CCTV grab, which shows Vaze meeting Hiran, an auto parts dealer, in Mumbai’s Fort area, is being looked into by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad and the National Investigation Agency.
Hiran, who knew Vaze beforehand, was found dead in a Thane creek on March 5, a week after the 4X4 was spotted outside Ambani’s house. Hiran’s wife has accused Vaze of killing her husband.
Earlier, Vaze had borrowed the same 4X4 for about four months from Hiran, and returned it on February 5.
The February 17 meeting between Vaze and Hiran happened inside a black Mercedes-Benz, near the General Post Office in Fort area. The meeting lasted around 10 minutes, according to the ATS.
On February 17 itself, Hiran lodged a complaint with the Vikhroli police station about his stolen 4X4. After the Ambani case became public, Vaze himself recorded Hiran’s statement, since he was the chief of Crime Intelligence Unit. However, Vaze’s report did not mention the February 17 meeting he had with Hiran.