India

Sharad Pawar rules out minister’s resignation, says no Sena pressure

New Delhi/Mumbai: NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday put to rest speculation over Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh’s immediate future saying there was no need for him to resign in the wake of allegations of corruption. He cleared his stand on a day when the ruling combine of the state was set to meet to take a call on the matter. A little earlier in the day, the Shiv Sena, which heads the alliance, had hinted that Deshmukh’s position may be safe for now. It said that since both Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Pawar agree on a need to probe the allegations, it was pointless to press on his resignation. It was also revealed today that the former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, whose letter to Thackeray had sparked the political crisis, had approached the Supreme Court, seeking an “impartial and fair CBI investigation” based on his allegations.

Anil Deshmukh was in hospital from February 5 to 15 and from February 15 to 27, he was in home isolation in Nagpur, said NCP chief Sharad Pawar who has called for a probe into Param Bir Singh’s allegations. Singh had alleged that arrested Mumbai cop Sachin Vaze had met the Home Minister around this time. “We will share all these records with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The question of resignation does not arise now,” Pawar said.

Singh has approached the Supreme Court, seeking an investigation into his allegations against Deshmukh. He has also challenged his transfer to Home Guards, ordered by the Maharashtra government last week over lapses in the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case.

In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he had last week said that Deshmukh had led an extortion racket with the now suspended policeman Sachin Vaze, a Shiv Sena member. He said that the Home Minister had asked the police to collect Rs. 100 crore every month and meddled with cases. Deshmukh has now threatened to sue him for defamation.

The allegations against Deshmukh sparked a ruckus in both Houses of Parliament today, with the Rajya Sabha even being adjourned due to the din. At least eight BJP MPs raised queries over the issue during Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, with many of them demanding the sacking of the state government.

Thackeray has called a meeting of the state law and justice ministry officials at 4.30 pm today. This gains prominence in the wake of his decision to keep a closer eye on the Home Ministry.

Vaze, with a controversial history, probed the Ambani case initially, but was later found by the NIA to be part of the conspiracy himself. He had joined the Shiv Sena during an earlier period of suspension in the 2000s.

He was closely associated with the Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran, to whom the SUV found on Mumbai’s Carmichael Road was traced back, according to NIA. The auto parts dealer had reported the vehicle as stolen a week before it was found near Ambani’s residence.

Hiran was then found dead in a Thane creek on March 5. The Maharashtra ATS has arrested a former cop, now on furlough, and a bookie in this connection. The businessman’s wife had alleged Vaze’s involvement in his death. She also alleged that the cop had used the same SUV for four months till returning it on February 5.

Referring to Vaze, the Maharashtra Chief Minister had earlier this month asked, “Is he Osama bin Laden?” The NCP chief had reportedly questioned the Sena’s involvement with a person as dodgy as Vaze.

The Shiv Sena had earlier questioned the need for the NIA to probe the Ambani bomb scare case, which, it said, the Maharashtra ATS could have handled. The NIA has now taken over the case of Hiran’s death, too.

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