Union home minister Amit Shah today made a remark that raises more questions than answers when asked about his alleged meeting with Sharad Pawar whose NCP is facing a crisis in Maharashtra over allegations of corruption against the state’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. “Everything need not be made public,” Shah said during a press briefing a day after the first phase of election in West Bengal and Assam.
Gujarati news reports, in the meantime, said that Pawar and his party colleague Praful Patel had on Saturday met Shah at a farmhouse in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. No sooner did this ‘news’ emerge, the opposition began alleging it must have been the house of industrialist Gautam Adani while people sympathetic to the BJP-led NDA government at the centre speculated that now there was no hope of Deshmukh being served his just deserts.
The meeting assumed significance in the wake of former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations against Deshmukh, who is from the NCP. The NCP, the Shiv Sena and the INC are constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in Maharashtra.
Singh, who is now in the Home Guard, in his eight-page letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on 20 March claimed Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect Rs 100 crore every month from bars and hotels in the city of Mumbai. The senior police official talked also about the state home minister’s interference in investigations. Deshmukh has rubbished the allegations against him.
Meanwhile, BJP politicians from the state have demanded a president’s rule (invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution of India) in the state after the arrest of police officer Sachin Vaze in connection with the recovery of the explosives-laden vehicle near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house and Singh’s corruption allegations against Deshmukh. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Vaze, an assistant police inspector, in connection with its probe into the explosives-laden vehicle found parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence on 25 February.
The NIA is interrogating Vaze also in connection with the alleged murder of Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiran, who owned the Scorpio car found near Ambani’s house Antilia. Hiran was found dead on 5 March.
Further, the Shiv Sena attacked Deshmukh today, with the editor of the party’s mouthpiece Saamana, Sanjay Raut, calling the NCP leader an “accidental home minister“.
The coalition government of Maharashtra said it would institute an inquiry into the allegations against Deshmukh. It has begun the process to form a judicial commission to be headed by a retired judge, sources said.
Deshmukh said today that Chief Minister Thackeray and the state government had decided that a retired judge of the high court would conduct a probe into the allegations against him. “Whatever is the truth, it will come out,” he told reporters at the Nagpur airport.