Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Monday resigned from his post, amid corruption allegations against him. Deshmukh has so far denied any impropriety. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s office said that Nationalist Congress Party leader Dilip Walse Patil will replace Deshmukh, reported ANI.
It added that Thackeray has forwarded Deshmukh’s resignation to state Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and also informed him about Patil taking over.
Deshmukh’s decision came hours after the Bombay High Court ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the allegations, which were levelled by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Deshmukh, in his resignation letter to Thackeray, said that he did not believe it was morally correct for him to stay in the post after the court’s order, according to ANI.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik said Deshmukh met party chief Sharad Pawar and other leaders after the court order. “The party has requested the CM to accept his resignation,” he added.
Malik claimed that the former Mumbai police chief’s allegations against Deshmukh were baseless, according to PTI. “But the party respects the court and hence the minister will quit,” he added.
Malik had then said that Chief Minister Thackeray will take over the home department for the time being. There were speculations that Patil, the current minister of labour and excise department, will replace him.
Uddhav Thackeray has forfeited moral authority to govern: RS Prasad
Meanwhile, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that the Maharashtra chief minister has forfeited the moral authority to govern the state, reported PTI. “Democracy is run by the standards of probity and propriety,” Prasad said, adding that the “consistent conspicuous silence of Uddhav Thackeray is by itself raising a lot of questions”.
Prasad said the matter must be investigated in a fair manner and all those involved must be punished.
The Union minister also hit out at Pawar for defending Deshmukh. “Sharad Pawar is a senior political leader of the country,” Prasad said. “He ought to have understood the implications of giving a complete clean chit to Anil Deshmukh.”
Referring to the allegations of former Mumbai police commission that Deshmukh had fixed a target of extorting Rs 100 crore through suspended Crime Branch officer Sachin Vaze, Prasad said: “If this was the target of one minister in Mumbai, then what was the target of other ministers for the entire state”.
He wondered if Deshmukh was extorting money through Vaze for himself, his party or the state government. “Surely there may be many linkages,” Prasad claimed. “We expect all the linkages of this shameful conduct of corruption to be investigated properly. We believe all this chain points to a conspiracy of loot in which Vaze is a common factor.”
Maharashtra’s BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said he was happy about Deshmukh’s resignation. “Those who make mistakes should be punished or else democracy won’t be strengthened,” he said. “Many skeletons will tumble out after the 15-day CBI preliminary probe.”
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis claimed that the state government does not have the mandate of the people, reported The Times of India.
“The government has been formed by betraying the people’s mandate,” he claimed. “This is an auto-rickshaw government with leaders of all the three parties considering the government as their own fiefdom.”
Fadnavis also asked why Thackeray was silent on the matter. “Why is the chief minister mum?” he asked. “His silence is unsettling.”
However, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that the state government will respond after studying the Bombay High Court verdict. “No investigating agency is an incarnation of God,” he said. “The issue is political, too. Our tradition is that we honour decisions of the judiciary.”
The accusations against Deshmukh
On March 20, Singh had accused Deshmukh of extorting money from bars, restaurants and hookah parlours in Mumbai. In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the former police chief wrote that Vaze told him that the minister had asked him to collect Rs 100 crore every month through illegal channels.
Singh had also accused the home minister of frequently interfering with police investigations in various cases.
Vaze was sent to the custody of the National Investigation Agency on March 15 for his alleged role in placing an explosives-laden vehicle outside the south Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani last month. 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.
The allegations against Deshmukh have landed the Shiv Sena, the Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party government in a huge controversy. BJP leaders claimed there was a possibility that such incidents of alleged extortion were taking place in other Maharashtra cities like Pune, Nagpur and Jalgaon.
Deshmukh had refuted Singh’s allegations, and claimed that the police officer was trying to cover up after mishandling the Ambani case.