Explosive Letter, Oppn Pressure: Maha HM’s Fate Changed in 48 Hrs
From calling the shots to being dragged to the Supreme Court, the political game has changed for Anil Deshmukh.
Not just the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh too has launched a full-blown attack on the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, which now has Home Minister Anil Deshmukh's fate hanging in the balance.
While the MVA initially believed to have tackled the pressure by the Opposition over the Mukhesh Ambani bomb scare case after the arrest of former API Sachin Vaze and transfer of Singh, the Maharashtra government now faces heat over an explosive letter by Singh leveling corruption allegations against Deshmukh.
Singh on Monday, 22 March, took the matter to the Supreme Court, where he challenged his transfer and asked for a CBI probe into alleged malpractices by Deshmukh.
Even as the BJP has taken to the streets to demand Deshmukh’s resignation, several top leaders of the MVA, including Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, have held numerous meetings. The MVA has questioned the timing of the letter and alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using Singh to destabilise the state government.
Here’s how the political game changed for Home Minister Deshmukh over the weekend, who has previously tackled political controversies like the Sushant Singh Rajput case and the TRP scam, and had so far kept the tides in MVA’s favour through it all.
The Weekend ‘Letter Bomb’
It all began on 20 March with Param Bir Singh’s explosive letter, released just three days after his removal as the Mumbai Police Commissioner.
- Singh on Saturday, 20 March, in an unsigned letter, accused Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of corruption.
- In his letter to CM Thackeray and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Singh claimed that Deshmukh had directed API Sachin Vaze to collect Rs 100 crore every month from bars, restaurants, and other establishments. He further claimed that he had briefed the CM, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, the President of the Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar, and other senior ministers of the several misdeeds and malpractice by Deshmukh. Singh alleged that Deshmukh gave Vaze a target “to accumulate Rs 100 crore a month”.
- Pawar suggested the name of former Mumbai top cop Julio Ribeiro, who in a conversation with NDTV refused to “touch the case with a march pole”.
- Calling the allegations false, Deshmukh asked why Param Bir Singh was quiet for so long. “After realising that he will be removed from the post of Commissioner of Police on the next day, Param Bir Singh on 16 March, called on ACP Sanjay Patil and asked some questions from WhatsApp chat, and got the answers he expected,” Deshmukh said. Saying that it was Singh who brought back Vaze in the force, Deshmukh alleged that a conspiracy hatched by Param Bir Singh to derail the investigation in the explosives case and the suspicious death of Mansukh Hiren.
- Leader of the Opposition and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis demanded the sacking of Deshmukh from his post. “Allegations made by Param Bir Singh are, in my opinion, more explosive than the gelatine sticks found in the car near Ambani’s residence,” Fadnavis said.
- MNS chief Raj Thackeray, meanwhile, has sought Anil Deshmukh’s immediate resignation. He also sought a central agency probe in the case.
- NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday, 21 March, claimed that former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s letter has serious allegations against Deshmukh, but added that the said letter is not signed and questioned the timing of it. While backing the Maharashtra government, Pawar suggested that an “in-depth inquiry by an officer of repute” should be conducted in the case, the NCP supremo said that the final decision on the fate of the Maharashtra home minister lies with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. He said that the timing of the allegations, made by Singh, however, should also be thoroughly probed.
- Several BJP workers took to the streets across several cities and districts of Maharashtra, including Nagpur, to demand the immediate removal of Deshmukh as the Home Minister.
- Several ministers and state BJP leaders also echoed demands for a President’s rule in the state.
- The Shiv Sena on Monday launched a scathing attack on Singh and slammed the BJP for allegedly using him to destabilise the state government. In an editorial published by the party in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the Sena said that since the probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Mukesh Ambani bomb-scare case and former API Sachin Vaze’s alleged involvement in it would have been traced back to Singh, he leveled the allegations to shield himself.
- Congress leaders Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan met CM Thackeray to discuss the allegations against Deshmukh.
- The NCP said that the core members of the MVA will discuss the issue, but the final decision will be taken by the CM of Maharashtra.
- Pawar in a media briefing said that Singh's corruption allegations against Deshmukh were vague and that there was no question of the latter resigning. Pawar said that from 5-27 February, Deshmukh was in quarantine as he was infected with COVID-19 and he could not have met anybody as was being claimed by Singh.
- Leader of Opposition and former CM Devendra Fadnavis took to Twitter to share a clip of a press conference held by Deshmukh on 15 February, thereby refuting Pawar’s claims of the Home Minister being in quarantine.
- CM Thackeray convened a review meeting of the state’s Law and Judiciary department at his residence.
- Rajya Sabha proceedings were disrupted after uproar over corruption allegations against Deshmukh. The matter was also raised in the Lok Sabha.
- Singh filed a petition before the Supreme Court about his transfer to Home Guard Department by the Maharashtra government and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged malpractices by state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.