Maharashtra: Allies to meet today to decide Anil Deshmukh's fate
The leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance will meet today in New Delhi to decide the fate of Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who is battling corruption charges. Yesterday, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo, Sharad Pawar, said that the allegations are serious. and suggested an independent probe by retired top cop Julio Ribeiro. Pawar, however, raised questions on the timing of allegations.
Deshmukh, an NCP member, was accused of corruption by Param Bir Singh, who was removed from the post of Mumbai's police commissioner for "unforgivable" lapses in the Mukesh Ambani's bomb scare case. In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Singh alleged that Deshmukh had asked multiple officers, including Sachin Vaze, to extort Rs. 100 crore per month. Vaze was earlier arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Singh had also claimed that he was transferred for opposing Deshmukh's "interference" in the police force. Speaking on the allegations on Sunday, Pawar asserted that Shiv Sena boss Thackeray has "full authority" to take a call. "Allegations have been made and it is the prerogative of the Chief Minister to take an appropriate decision on this issue," the former Union Minister said in Delhi.
Advocating for an in-depth inquiry, Pawar added, "I don't know if he will agree to take up this responsibility, but I am going to suggest to the Chief Minister to appoint former CP of Mumbai Julio Ribeiro to conduct an inquiry into this case."
However, Ribeiro, who is known for his integrity, said he will not take up the job. "I am not in any position because I am 92 years of age and I don't have that much energy and even though I could, I would not have investigated this matter, because it is a very low-level politics been played," he told ANI.
Separately, Pawar added that he believed Singh leveled the allegations because he was transferred to a less-significant post. But the NCP chief did admit that Singh had spoken about "political interference." "He said it would be an injustice to him if he was moved. He also told me that there was political interference in his department," Pawar said. Another NCP leader, Jayant Patil, refuted speculations that Deshmukh will be replaced.
Giving his opinion on the uproar, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut said each constituent of the coalition needs introspection. "They need to check if their feet are on the ground," he said. Meanwhile, slamming the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded Deshmukh's resignation. Devendra Fadnavis, the former CM of Maharashtra, said that Deshmukh must be removed "before any probe is done."
And Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Pawar to explain if Deshmukh was collecting money "on behalf of himself, NCP, or the government." "If Rs. 100 crore was the target by Home Minister (Maharashtra) then what was the target by other ministers," he went on.