Questioning the “timing” of the shocking allegations against the Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, Sharad Pawar said on Sunday that the final decision about Deshmukh continuing in office lies with the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
However, calling for an “in-depth” investigation into the allegations, Pawar said that the timing of the allegations against Anil Deshmukh has to be looked into. “Why now? Why did Parambir Singh not bring it up earlier?” asked Pawar, adding that he has made these allegations only after he has been transferred.
Pointing out that the allegations are “serious”, Pawar said that no actual details on the ₹100-crore transactions have been shared by Parambir Singh. The former Mumbai Police Commissioner, who was recently replaced over “unforgivable” lapses in the Mukesh Ambani security scare probe, has alleged that Home Minister Deshmukh asked police officers to collect at least ₹100 crore every month from bars and hotels.
A top leader of the state’s ruling alliance has told NDTV that Deshmukh has to go as the corruption allegations against him are “serious”. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is also of this view, he said. Pawar has also suggested that an independent probe, probably headed by retired cop Julio Ribeiro should be conducted on this entire controversy.
The allegation against Deshmukh, an NCP leader, was made by former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh, who was shunted out to the low-key Home Guards earlier this week after the arrest of police officer Sachin Waze in the case related to the bomb scare near Mukesh Ambani’s house in Mumbai. Singh was replaced by Hemant Nagrale in the top post.
Deshmukh, however, denied the allegation, stating that Singh was making false accusations to save himself and that he would sue the former city police head for defamation. However, it has already prompted a controversy in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which comprises of the Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress.
In an eight-page letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Singh claimed he was made a scapegoat and that Deshmukh used to call police officers to his official residence and give them a “collection target” from bars, restaurants and other establishments.
Refuting this, Singh said on Saturday, “The allegations levelled against me by Param Bir Singh are false. It’s his conspiracy to defame me and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to defend himself. Why was he quiet for so many days after Sachin Waze was arrested?” He said Singh has falsely accused him as the involvement of Waze in the case “is becoming clearer from the probe carried out so far and threads are leading to Singh as well.”
Related news | Mujahideen member a key suspect in Ambani bomb scare case
Meanwhile, the BJP demanded the home minister to immediately resign or he must be sacked by the chief minister. “We demand detailed investigation by the central government agencies into the very serious allegations against Maharashtra Home Minister. If the state government disagrees, a court-monitored investigation be done. Looking at the evidence placed in this letter, the HM should immediately resign or CM should sack him,” said former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP.
Facing controversy, a leader of the MVA alliance has admitted off the record that Deshmukh will have to quit as he’s facing serious corruption charges and that CM Thackeray is also of this same view. He said Sena leaders and NCP chief Sharad Pawar are likely to hold a meeting on Sunday evening in this regard.
Contradicting this, Jayant Patil, a minister in the Thackeray cabinet and the state NCP chief, has asserted that the ex-CP’s letter was a reaction to the government’s decision to take a strong stand and that there’s no question of replacing the home minister.
Meanwhile, investigators claimed that CCTV footage showed Waze, now suspended, meeting businessman Mansukh Hiran on the day a Scorpio in Hiran’s possession was “stolen”, and Waze later tried to destroy evidence. The same car was found with explosives near Ambani’s house on February 25.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is now probing the case. The NIA officials said Waze, suspected to have played a role in parking the vehicle near Ambani’s house, had used fake vehicle registration plates to conceal his movements.
Related news | Ambani security threat case has a Tihar connect
Later he tried to destroy them by dumping in creeks, but during the probe two number plates were recovered, said an official. Further, he also tried to tamper with CCTV footage at the housing society in Thane where he lived and at some other places by obtaining Digital Video Recording so as to conceal his movements while committing the crime, the official added.
On February 25, the Scorpio was found parked near Ambani’s residence ‘Antilia’ with gelatin sticks and a threat letter. Hiran was found dead in a creek in Thane on March 5. His family alleged that Waze had a role in his death. Waze was arrested by the NIA on March 13.
(With inputs from agencies)