Pawar summons NCP leaders to Delhi, pressure mounts on Deshmukh
Mumbai, March 21, 2021
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar has summoned Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state party chief Jayant Patil to Delhi on Sunday to discuss the fallout of the allegations against the party leader and Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
This comes in the wake of the pressure building within the alliance of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) that Deshmukh should quit after the allegations were levelled against him by the former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. The BJP has also called for his removal.
Sources within the alliance say that allegation is a very serious one and the only face-saver would be his resignation but the final call on the issue will be taken by Sharad Pawar.
The NCP has called a meeting of its senior leaders to take a final step on it. Till now, the NCP has been in a defensive mode but clarity will come only after the NCP chief takes a final decision on the issue.
Deshmukh has denied the charges and said on Saturday that he will sue Singh for defamation.
In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Param Bir Singh had said that the home minister had asked several officers, including Sachin Vaze, to run an extortion racket. They were allegedly given a target of Rs 100 crore every month and asked to collect the money from restaurants, pubs, bars and hookah parlours.
Taking strong umbrage at Deshmukh's remarks that his transfer as Commandant-General of Maharashtra Home Guards was not for administrative purposes but for "unpardonable lapses" by his team, the former Mumbai top cop shot off an eight-page missive to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, saying he was made a "scapegoat" for "extraneous and vindictive reasons".
Rejecting Singh's charges, Deshmukh claimed that Singh was levelling false allegations against him to save himself in the SUV case and the case related to the death of businessman Mansukh Hiren.
"The former Commissioner of Police, Parambir Singh has made false allegations in order to save himself as the involvement of Sachin Vaze in Mukesh Ambani & Mansukh Hiren's case is becoming clearer from the investigation carried out so far & threads are leading to Mr. Singh as well," Deshmukh said on Twitter.
The SUV case refers to the explosives-laden Scorpio that was found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's residence, Antilia, in Mumbai last month. Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiren, who was in possession of the Scorpio, was found dead under mysterious circumstances on March 5.
In the letter, Singh has pointed out that his transfer was effected under Maharashtra Police Act, 1951, Section 22N(2) with the reason that it was necessitated by administration exigencies, to ensure a free and fair probe in the Antilia (SUV case) incident.
However, he rued the fact that, in a recent interview, Deshmukh had stated that there were "serious lapses committed at my office, by the Mumbai Police and me, in the investigation of the Antilia incident" and "my serious lapses are not pardonable" and "my transfer is not on administrative grounds".
Singh recalled how he had briefed Thackeray, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, NCP President Sharad Pawar and other senior ministers about the "misdeeds and malpractices" indulged in by Deshmukh.
In this context, Singh said that Deshmukh had summoned Vaze at his official residence "Dyaneshwari" several times and had repeatedly asked him to assist in collecting funds for the minister.
According to Singh, at one such meeting in mid-February, the Minister told Vaze that he had a target to collect Rs 100 crore per month and even advised him that since there are 1,750 bars, eateries and other establishments in Mumbai, if Rs 2-3 lakh was collected from each, it could amount to around Rs 40-50 crore, while the balance could be achieved from other sources.
Even as Vaze came and informed him about the matter, Singh said that ACP Sanjay Patil of Social Service Branch and DCP (Enforcement) Raju Bhujbal were also called by Deshmukh to discuss the hookah parlours in Mumbai with the similar demand to "collect" money.
Singh said that he reconfirmed all this information four days ago with ACP Sanjay Patil and also reproduced the WhatsApp chat with him in the letter to the CM.
Both Vaze and ACP Patil had reported their "predicament" to Singh, who was mulling over how to sort out the issue of "corrupt malpractices".
Singh asserted that Deshmukh had repeatedly bypassed him and called officers to his official residence, asking them to carry out "official assignments and money collection schemes and targets".
He pointed out that, in the past one year, Deshmukh had even instructed his officers "to adopt a specific course of action in police investigations", which the IPS officer pointed out were "political interference, illegal and un-constitutional".
In order to bolster his contentions, Singh referred to the recent death of Dadra & Nagar Haveli MP Mohan Delkar at a Mumbai hotel, in which Deshmukh had reportedly insisted that the Mumbai Police should register a case of "abetment of suicide" to derive political mileage.
At that time, after seeking legal opinion, Singh said he had informed Thackeray, Deshmukh and others that it could only be done by the police of the Union Territory.
The minister was unhappy with Singh's resistance and despite knowing the full background, he went ahead to announce a Special Investigation Team to probe the matter earlier this month.
Singh said he was aware of the "likely retaliation" against him and hence was placing the "true picture on record" for the CM's consideration and corrective action.