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BJP Stir: Sharad Pawar Steps in to Save the MVA government

BJP Stir: Sharad Pawar Steps in to Save the MVA government

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Mar 21: Amidst political row over the Mumbai former police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s explosive letter to the chief minister Uddhav Thackeray leveling serious allegations of extortions on the home minister, the Nationalist Congress Party chief and the main architect of the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has stepped in to save it from imminent collapse.

While he termed Singh’s allegations against Anil Deshmukh, who belonged to his party, as “serious,” Pawar though authorized did not issue a marching order on the home minister and instead left the decision on it on Thackeray in recognition of his authority as the chief minister.

Pawar also suggested that Singh’s allegations required a thorough probing by a police officer of repute and in this regard suggested the name of Julio Rebeiro for the job but again left the final decision and the choice of the inquiry officer on the chief minister.

His stand had an immediate soothing effect with the Congress joining with him to take the stand that the BJP rocking the boat with Singh’s letter bomb would have no impact on the stability of the government. The tempers of the Shiv Sena, which led the three-party government and was agitated over the arrest of the assistant police commissioner Sachin Vaze by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the seizure of the explosive-laden vehicle near the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, has also mellowed down.

Though the trouble between the BJP and the MVA government started with the arrest of Vaze, Singh’s letter to the CM was unconnected with the issue and instead leveled serious charges against the home minister after he was transferred to the insignificant home guards from the influential office of the police commissioner of the mega city.

The NCP chief told media persons in Delhi that Singh had told him there was political interference in his department.

“The allegations raised by former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh are serious,” he said.

In an eight-page letter to Thackeray on Friday, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had asked Vaze, to collect Rs 100 crore every month, including Rs 40-50 crore from some 1,750-odd bars and restaurants in Mumbai.

Pawar said he would suggest Thackeray to appoint former IPS officer Julio Rebeiro to inquire into these allegations. “The Maharashtra Chief Minister has full authority to take a decision regarding an inquiry into the allegations against the Home Minister,” he said.

Pawar refuted the BJP allegations that reinstating Vaze after suspension for 16 years was the decision of the chief minister and Deshmukh. “It was Param Bir Singh who had decided to reinstate Vaze into the force last year,” Pawar said. “Param Bir Singh is making wild allegations because he was removed as Mumbai Police Commissioner,” he added.

On whether Deshmukh should continue as Home Minister, Pawar said the decision rest with Thackeray.

Pawar informed that efforts were on to destabilise the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra but all such attempts would prove futile. “I don’t know whether efforts are being made or not to topple the government (Maharashtra). All I can say is that these will have no impact,” he added. The Congress joined in stating that there was conspiracy behind the allegations against home minister. “Attempts are being made to pull down non-BJP governments in the country. This is part of the same,” party spokesman Sachin Sawant said on Sunday.

The entire issue has caused serious strain among the partners of the ruling MVA alliance – Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress. While Deshmukh has accused Singh and the Mumbai Police of “serious and unpardonable mistakes”, the Sena has come in support of Vaze. Also, in an editorial in “Saamana,” the party said Singh showed commitment towards the fight against Covid-19, visited Dharavi, which was a hotbed of infections last year. It added that the TRP scam, in which Vaze had been part of the team that arrested certain accused, was brought to light under his tenure.

While the union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad demanded an “explanation” from Pawar and Thackeray for whom Deshmukh was collecting “extortion” hinting that that both the chief minister and the NCP chief were involved in the “extortion racket,” the BJP organized a state-wide agitation in Maharashtra demanding immediate sacking of the home minister.

Reacting to Pawar’s statements, the former chief minister and presently the leader of the opposition Devendra Fadnavis, while reiterating his party’s demand of the Home Minister’s resignation, said an impartial probe would not be possible till Anil Deshmukh was in the office. “Sharad Pawar created this government in Maharashtra and hence he is defending them. Sachin Vaze was brought back to service following orders from the Maharashtra Chief Minister and Home Minister. The NCP chief is just trying to wash his hands off the matter,” Fadavis added.

The Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra further said before Param Bir Singh, Maharashtra DG Subodh Jaiswal had also submitted a report to Maharashtra Chief Minister regarding corruption over police transfers. “However, Uddhav Thackeray never did anything about it and Jaiswal had to resign,” Fadnavis added.

BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi, too, hit out at the Maharashtra government, demanding a CBI probe into the matter. “I think Maharashtra is governed by ‘Maharashtra Vasooli Aghadi’. We demand Deshmukh’s resignation at the earliest,” Ravi added.

The explosive contents of the eight-page letter to the Chief Minister, in which Singh attacked Deshmukh was not linked to the Antilia security case, but he suggested at the end of the letter that he had to pay the price for resisting the Home Minister’s “interference” in the work of the Mumbai police force.

 

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