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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Explained: How Shiv Sena dragged its feet in Sachin Waze case

At the heart of the crisis was the inability of the Shiv Sena and the government to jettison in time a tainted officer who had been brought back to the force under its watch, in violation of a High Court order.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: March 24, 2021 9:02:24 am
Sachin Waze controversy, Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case, Shiv Sena, MVA govt, Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi govt, Mumbai news, Maharashtra news, Indian express newsSachin Waze

As the Ambani security scare-Sachin Waze controversy broke, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government seemed in denial. By the time realisation dawned, the coalition was fighting to douse a Level 4 fire.

At the heart of the crisis was the inability of the Shiv Sena and the government to jettison in time a tainted officer who had been brought back to the force under its watch, in violation of a High Court order.

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Over the Covid lockdown months of 2020, as the Opposition BJP tried to find a chink in the ruling coalition, the state government had closed ranks against a procession of Central investigating agencies heading to Mumbai. The government had gone all out to defend the Mumbai Police and its Commissioner Param Bir Singh in various high-profile matters.

In the case of the Antilia bomb scare, too, the MVA used the same playbook.

At first, the government seemed unperturbed by the Mumbai Police’s failure to make a single breakthrough even after a week had passed. The first embarrassment for the political leadership came on March 5 when Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis alleged a link between the two protagonists: Waze and Mansukh Hiran, the person who last drove the Scorpio before reporting it stolen on February 17.

Around the time that Fadnavis was talking in the Assembly, Hiran’s body was being fished out of a creek in Mumbra.

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That was when a red-faced government, which seemed to have fewer details of the case than Fadnavis, handed over the Ambani security scare case to the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad.

Sources said the government wanted to transfer Waze immediately from the CIU. “But, one of the views was why transfer him just because the Opposition had raised the issue. The delay in his transfer caused embarrassment to the government,” said a Sena leader, requesting anonymity.

On March 8, Budget Day, after Fadnavis once again cornered the government in the Assembly by reading out Hiran’s wife’s allegation that her husband had been murdered and that she suspected Waze, the MVA tried pitching it as another case of central agencies being let loose on Opposition-ruled states. By then, the NIA had taken over the Antilia case.

Even as late as March 10, the day Waze was transferred out of the Crime Branch, CM Thackeray came out in his support.

Waze’s day-long interrogation by the NIA on March 13, his subsequent arrest, and the revelations about the extent of his involvement were damaging beyond the government’s initial estimation. As in previous crises, it was only after NCP chief Sharad Pawar stepped in, held meetings with Thackeray that the government’s back was stiffened for damage control. Still, it would be two more days until the announcement of the police chief’s transfer.

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