Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday accused the Nationalist Congress Party of covering its tracks to protect the state government, and alleged that party chief Sharad Pawar was made to falsely testify about Home Minister Anil Deshmukh’s whereabouts.
At a press briefing, Fadnavis claimed that there were several discrepancies in Deshmukh’s version of events as well as in the alibi presented by Pawar. The BJP leader said he was in possession of two police documents detailing the minister’s whereabouts, which prove that he was lying.
The allegations are the latest developments in a case that started with a bomb threat in a car parked outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence in Mumbai. Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, who was transferred for his handling of the case, has accused Deshmukh of corruption, alleging he exhorted money from local businesses. Singh also claimed that suspended Mumbai Police Crime Branch officer Sachin Vaze told him that Deshmukh had asked him to collect Rs 100 crore every month through illegal channels.
Vaze, a senior Mumbai police officer, was arrested on March 13 by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the bomb threat case. He denied any wrongdoing in the case. Meanwhile, Singh also moved the Supreme Court, seeking an “unbiased, uninfluenced, impartial and fair investigation” by the Central Bureau of Investigation into corruption allegations against Deshmukh.
Deshmukh denied impropriety, saying that purported meetings with Vaze last month were impossible as he was in hospital with Covid-19 and then in quarantine. On Monday, Pawar supported Deshmukh’s claims, saying that Deshmukh was hospitalised during the period that the former Mumbai Police chief mentions in his accusations.
“If you see the former commissioner’s letter, he mentions that in mid-February he was informed by certain officers that they got such and such instructions from home minister,” Pawar said on Monday. “From February 6 to February 16, Deshmukh was admitted in hospital because of corona[virus].” After that he was in quarantine and under isolation, the NCP leader said.
However, on Tuesday, Fadnavis contested these claims, saying it seemed that Pawar “was not briefed properly” about the events. “Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was not in isolation during home quarantine period,” Fadnavis alleged. “There are many evidence and it’s easy to find out if one wishes.”
The BJP leader added that he had two police manifests, which he claimed provided details about Deshmukh’s movements between February 17 and February 24.
“As per police records of VIP movement, Anil Deshmukh went to Sahyadri Guest House in Mumbai on February 17 and Mantralaya on February 24,” Fadnavis added, according to PTI. “Anil Deshmukh was in home quarantine from February 15 and February 27, but he met officers and was not in isolation. I feel Pawar sahab [sir] was not briefed properly yesterday.”
Fadnavis added that it was wrong that a reputed politician like Pawar was given incorrect information. “A political leader of his stature was made to say the wrong things,” Fadnavis said. “The manner in which they tried to protect things, according to me, is a complete expose.”
The BJP leader also claimed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (a coalition of the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP) government in Maharashtra had not acted on an “incriminating” state intelligence department report containing audio intercepts of large scale corruption in police transfers and postings. Fadnavis said Thackeray was made aware of the alleged racket, but he refused to act on it.