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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Deshmukh’s tenure as Maharashtra Home Minister short but eventful

A loyalist handpicked by NCP chief Sharad Pawar for the portfolio, Deshmukh started off soon after taking charge in December 2019 by hitting out at the Centre for asking the NIA to take over the probe in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
Updated: April 5, 2021 9:16:19 pm
Anil Deshmukh resignation MumbaiFormer Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, in a letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray, had alleged that monthly collection targets were being set for some officers by the former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.

FROM BEING called the “accidental Home Minister” to the “joker of the Maha Vikas Aghadi circus” by the Opposition, Anil Deshmukh’s tenure as Maharashtra Home Minister was as eventful as it was rocky. During his tenure, especially in the weeks before his resignation, the NCP’s lone Vidarbha leader faced allegations of corruption in police postings, setting targets for money collection from bars and restaurants, interfering in police investigations and shooting his mouth off and later having to retract.

A loyalist handpicked by NCP chief Sharad Pawar for the portfolio, Deshmukh started off soon after taking charge in December 2019 by hitting out at the Centre for asking the NIA to take over the probe in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Deshmukh had earlier declared that his department would review if the case against activists and lawyers by the Pune Police was legally sound. Deshmukh had alleged that the Centre had not informed the state government before taking up the probe.

When the lockdown was announced, Deshmukh travelled across the state reviewing the situation on the ground. He was also active on social media, putting out videos, advisories, congratulating officers on good work and giving birthday wishes to celebrities.

Deshmukh had taken to social media in such a big way that when Param Bir Singh was removed as Mumbai Police Commissioner, the new set of postings was tweeted by Deshmukh. He even tweeted his own resignation letter on Monday, minutes after his colleague in the NCP Nawab Malik told the media that Deshmukh would be stepping down.

Several crises rocked Maharashtra during his short tenure. A month into the lockdown, on April 24 last year, three persons including two sadhus were lynched in Palghar on suspicion that they were thieves. Later there were allegations made in sections of the media that it was a communal crime.

Alleging poor law and order in the state, demands were made for Deshmukh’s resignation. Deshmukh went on the offensive and released the names of the 101 persons arrested in the case to show that the incident was not communal in nature.

During his 14-month tenure, he was also caught on the wrong foot a number of times. After a TV journalist was blamed for creating a crisis outside Bandra station last April, the Mumbai Police booked him, and Deshmukh was criticised for not stopping registration of the FIR. However, the police eventually found no evidence to chargesheet him.

Known to share a good rapport with the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, he created a sensation by visiting a crime branch unit for a joint press conference with him. The duo would stand together again when allegations were made against Mumbai Police for trying to hush up the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

The two also worked in tandem on the transfers of DCP-ranked officers in the state that later had to be rescinded after they left CM Uddhav Thackeray fuming.

When the Rajput case was handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court, Deshmukh even withdrew general consent given to the CBI, alleging that the agency was being misused by the Central government against Maharashtra.

This time, the CBI will not need the state’s permission since it is the Bombay High Court that has asked them to probe the matter against Deshmukh.

In October, when Mumbai Police named Republic as one of the channels allegedly paying money to improve their TRPs, Deshmukh and Singh were again seen together defending the state machinery against allegations by Arnab Goswami that he was being targeted. It was Deshmukh again who asked for the Anvay Naik suicide case — in which Goswami had been named — to be reopened after a closure report had been filed earlier, that eventually led to Goswami’s arrest.

While Deshmukh formerly enjoyed a good rapport with Singh, he was known to not get along with the then DGP Subodh Kumar Jaiswal. Jaiswal was reportedly unhappy with the lobbying that was being done by some officers with the Home Minister and had at one point refused to sign a transfer order and eventually went on central deputation.

Things started going downhill for Deshmukh especially during the recently concluded Assembly session. He was seen as being caught unawares about the information and allegations read out by former CM Devendra Fadnavis regarding the Ambani terror scare case.

It was believed that Deshmukh was on a sticky wicket following suspended police officer Sachin Waze’s arrest. The final nail in the coffin turned out to be the letter by Singh that alleged Deshmukh that had set targets for money to be collected by officers and the Bombay High Court order on Monday ordering a preliminary enquiry by the CBI.

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