Updated: March 18, 2021 7:31:54 am
After Sachin Waze’s arrest by the NIA in the Ambani security scare case, Param Bir Singh’s removal as Mumbai Police commissioner seemed a foregone conclusion. Unusual for an assistant police inspector (API), a junior rank in the force, Waze was involved in the investigation of every sensitive case in Mumbai since his reinstatement in 2020. In the force, it was an open secret that he was reporting directly to Singh.
“When such incidents happen and the entire credibility of a force is at stake, such changes become necessary,” said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
Earlier, Raut had defended Waze and questioned NIA’s taking over of the probe into the case. On Wednesday, he said: “An API-rank officer cannot run the Mumbai Police force. He is not the head of Mumbai Police. If because of him questions are being raised on the police, the incumbent head of the police force should ensure that the mistakes of the past do not get repeated.”
For the Uddhav Thackeray-led ruling coalition, this is the first of the many crisis that it has faced in the last year in which it has seemed truly cornered. The leadership went into damage control mode within hours of Waze’s arrest. From the point of the view of the government, it was bad if Singh did not know what the junior inspector was doing, and worse if he did.
A top Sena source said the decision to remove Singh as the commissioner had been taken on Monday after a meeting between Chief Minister Thackeray and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
After standing by Sena in its initial defence of Waze, allies NCP and Congress on Tuesday declared that those responsible for the controversy would not be shielded and action would be taken against all erring officers.
For the Sena, more than Waze’s actions as alleged by the NIA, the buck stopped at Singh for the entire fiasco, which began with the discovery of a Scorpio outside the Ambanis’ Mumbai home, and started to damage the government’s credibility when links between Waze, the Scorpio and the businessman who had been driving it for more than a couple of years, were revealed by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on the floor of the state Assembly.
Within the Sena, questions are being asked about “how the police commissioner allowed it to happen”.
“It is clear that the police commissioner did not handle it properly,” said a Sena leader requesting anonymity, adding that the entire episode has brought a bad name not just for the police force but for the government as well. There are also questions about who leaked details of Waze’s call records data to Fadnavis, whose revelations in the Assembly left the government red-faced.
Throughout his career, Singh has been a controversial but self-confident officer. It was no different in his time as Mumbai’s top cop, cut short abruptly by the Waze controversy.
Last year, the Mumbai Police was vindicated in its stand that the Sushant Singh Rajput case was a suicide, but its long drawn out investigation into charges of abetment being made by people against various personalities in the film industry became a handle for the BJP to go after the Shiv Sena. Later, the presence of Waze in the arrest of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami by the Raigad police opened up charges of a personal vendetta against him by the Mumbai Police and the Thackeray government. In the TRP case, in which too Waze was involved, questions about selective targeting of certain channels came up.
If Singh was uneasy about the unfolding developments, there was nothing to indicate this all of last week. In his interactions with the media, he remained nonchalant about Fadnavis’ allegations against Waze, and quite confident that it would all blow over
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