India

Maharashtra alliance meet tomorrow amid corruption allegations

New Delhi: The final decision on Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh — battling corruption allegations by former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh — lies with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, ally Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said on Sunday. He, however, questioned the timing of the allegations by Singh, who was replaced over lapses in the Mukesh Ambani security scare probe days before. Pawar said he would suggest an independent investigation by former top cop Julio Ribeiro. A senior leader of the state’s ruling alliance has said that the allegations against Deshmukh are “serious” and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray thinks he has to go. The alliance leaders will meet in Delhi tomorrow and take a decision on Anil Deshmukh, who belongs to his party, Pawar said.

“The timing of these allegations against Anil Deshmukh has to be looked into. Why now? Param Bir Singh has made all these allegations after he was transferred,” Sharad Pawar told reporters in Delhi.

“Allegations against the Home minister are serious. There were allegations that Home Minister had directed the police to collect 100 crore. There is no information on actual transaction of money. No Information on any money being transferred to the Home Minister or his staff,” Pawar said.

The NCP chief also said he would suggest Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to hold an impartial investigation into the allegations. The investigator, he said, should be former Mumbai police chief Julio Ribeiro. “Julio Riberio’s credibility is such that no one can interfere or influence his investigation,” Pawar said.

Indicating a rift in the alliance, Jayant Patil, Maharashtra minister and NCP’s state unit chief, said there is “no question” of replacing Deshmukh. “The letter (Param Bir Singh’s letter to the Chief Minister) is a reaction after Maharashtra Chief Minister and Home Minister decided to take a tough stand,” he said.

Sharad Pawar also said efforts are on to destabilise the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra but they will prove futile. There will be no impact on the MVA government because of Singh’s allegations and it will complete five years, he added.

The BJP, which has demanded Deshmukh’s immediate resignation or removal, held protests in Nagpur, Mumbai and Pune. “If Rs. 100 crore was the target by Home Minister (Maharashtra) then what was the target by other ministers,” said Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Bihar.

The ruling alliance has landed in controversy after Param Bir Singh — replaced as Mumbai Police Commissioner over “unforgivable” lapses in the Mukesh Ambani security scare probe – accused Deshmukh of corruption and interference in police work.

In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Singh had said the home minister had asked several officers including Sachin Waze who has been arrested in the Mukesh Ambani case – to run an extortion racket. They were set a target of Rs. 100 crore every month.

Singh also wrote that the Home Minister, on several occasions, had instructed police officers on how to handle cases and file charges, bypassing him and other senior officers. Deshmukh has denied the allegations and said he will sue Singh for defamation.

Param Bir Singh was transferred to the Home Guard on Wednesday after police officer Sachin Waze arrested in the case involving a car full of explosives found near the home of Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani earlier this month. There were allegations that Sachin Waze was linked to the death of a man believed to be the owner of the explosives-filled SUV.

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