Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday called the corruption allegations against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh “serious” and said it was the prerogative of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to take appropriate action in the case.
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh levelled the allegations in a letter to Thackeray, days after being shunted out from his post. Singh had claimed that Deshmukh was extorting money from bars, restaurants and hookah parlours in the city. The former police chief wrote that suspended Crime Branch officer Sachin Vaze told him that the minister had asked him to collect Rs 100 crore every month through illegal channels. Deshmukh has refuted the allegations and said he will sue Singh for defamation.
“All these allegations have been made after his [Singh’s] transfer to Home Guard department,” Pawar told reporters in Delhi. “It is the prerogative of the chief minister to take appropriate decision. It is up to the chief minister to take action.”
Pawar said he would suggest Thackeray to seek retired Indian Police Service officer Julio Ribeiro’s help to investigate the claims made by Singh. “Julio Riberio’s credibility is such that no one can interfere or influence his investigation,” he added. “There has to be an in-depth inquiry into the allegations. The timing of these allegations against Anil Deshmukh has to be looked into. Why now?”
The Nationalist Congress Party chief said the alliance leaders will have a meeting on Monday and take a decision on Deshmukh, who belongs to his party. He added the allegations made by Singh will have no impact on the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Pawar is also scheduled to meet senior ministers and party leaders in Delhi on Sunday evening, according to India Today. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and the party’s Maharashtra unit chief Jayant Patil will attend the meeting.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut also said that he will meet Sharad Pawar in Delhi, PTI reported. Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Raut said that the case has tainted the image of the state government and there was need for “introspection” among the allies.
“The veracity of the letter’s contents will be done by Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar,” Raut said. “The MVA [Maha Vikas Aghadi] government has completed a year-and-a-half now and all allies need to introspect if their feet are on the ground.”
The Shiv Sena leader said steps should be taken to deal with the situation, adding that Deshmukh himself has asked for an inquiry in the case.
“Uddhav Thackeray has always tried to keep the government’s image clean,” he said. “What happens because of government officials needs to controlled at the right time. Even as the state investigative agencies are under Deshmukh, he has asked the chief minister to order an investigation.”
Meanwhile, NCP leader Patil has said that there was no question of removing Deshmukh as the home minister, the Hindustan Times reported. “The letter is a reaction after Maharashtra chief minister and home minister decided to take a tough stand,” Patil said. “If we ask Deshmukh to resign now, we would be doing what certain people want.”
On the other hand, an unidentified top leader of the alliance reportedly told NDTV that Deshmukh was likely to be axed and that Thackeray too, was in favour of the decision.
Police officer Sachin Vaze was suspended and sent into the custody of the National Investigation Agency for his alleged role in placing the explosives-laden vehicle at Carmichael Road, near the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai, on March 15. Two days later, Singh, who was handling the investigation, was transferred from his position to the low-key Home Guard department by the state government.
On March 18, Deshmukh had claimed that Singh’s transfer was not done on administrative grounds, but due to some “serious and unforgivable mistakes” made by his colleagues.
Former DGP says he won’t lead inquiry
Retired Director General of Police of Maharashtra Julio Ribeiro on Sunday said that he will not lead the investigation into the allegations against Deshmukh, The Indian Express reported.
“If I am asked, I will refuse,” he told The Indian Express. “Please understand that I am 92 years old. I do not have that ability to make such inquiries. Even if I had the ability, I would have refused because this is a very murky affair and it is not meant for people like me.”
Ribeiro added that the probe should be “made by Sharad Pawar himself” since Pawar headed the party. “They [the party] themselves know everything and they should take action. They will have to do it now because people are fed up with all this.”
He also refused to recommend someone he thought could lead the investigation. “I have no intention of recommending and putting good people in this situation,” he said. “It is very tricky situation as besides the political links, there are now murder allegations being brought in against officers of Mumbai Police. All of this is happening because of ambitious police officers and unscrupulous politicians.”