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Maharashtra Govt puts up brave face but pressure builds to ease Deshmukh out

FORMER Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s sensational letter Saturday accusing Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of corruption — unprecedented in the chequered history of Mumbai Police — has ratcheted up tension within the three-party ruling coalition.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh , Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: March 21, 2021 8:47:12 am
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.

FORMER Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s sensational letter Saturday accusing Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of corruption — unprecedented in the chequered history of Mumbai Police — has ratcheted up tension within the three-party ruling coalition.

The first response of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, as conveyed by the Chief Minister’s Office, calling into question the veracity of the letter, and, separately, a rebuttal by Deshmukh are indications that the government may be preparing to fight back.

The CMO statement late Saturday said the unsigned email letter received from Param Bir Singh, Commandant General of Home Guard, was being verified.

“A letter in the name of Commandant General of Home Guard, Param Bir Singh, was received on the official email of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat at 4.37 pm today. The email address from which the unsigned letter bearing the name of Param

Bir Singh, is being verified. Also, attempts are being made to contact Param Bir Singh through the Home Department,” it said.

When The Indian Express asked him the CMO’s statement late tonight, Param Bir Singh declined to comment.

Former Chief Minister and Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis — who has kept the heat turned on the Sachin Waze affair which precipitated the crisis — was prompt to call for Deshmukh’s resignation.

There is widespread sentiment, even in the government, that Deshmukh’s handling of the Home Ministry has left too much room for criticism. Insiders said the letter may pave the way for a reshuffle of ministerial berths in the coming days, in which Deshmukh may be let go.

In fact, earlier this week, when Thackeray and NCP president Sharad Pawar met to take stock of the situation after Waze’s arrest, they are said to have discussed changes both in the Mumbai Police and the Home Ministry. While the Mumbai Police Commissioner was changed within two days of that meeting, the decision on changing the Home minister was left to the NCP, to which he belongs.

With Pawar in Delhi for the Parliament Session, an immediate sacking of Deshmukh seems to be unlikely. Deshmukh had Friday flown to Delhi for a personal audience with Pawar and they are said to have discussed the Antilia case.

With both NCP and Congress leaders claiming that Singh’s statement is part of a conspiracy hatched by the BJP to defame the MVA government, it appears that coalition leaders have decided that if Deshmukh has to go, it will be at a time of their choosing.

“This (Param Bir Singh’s letter) comes in the backdrop of the state government saying it will take action against all those involved no matter how senior an officer is. We said the state government would support the NIAs investigation. This comes after we decided to expedite the investigation being conducted by ATS,” said state NCP head and Water Resources minister Jayant Patil.

Rural Development Minister and NCP minister Hasan Mushrif claimed it was a conspiracy hatched by the BJP and Param Bir Singh was being used as a pawn with the assurance that he would become an “approver” in the cases being investigated.

“This letter bomb has come two days after Devendra Fadnavis went to Delhi. A conspiracy has been hatched by the Centre to defame the NCP,” Mushrif said.

Echoing this, the Congress said the letter was a conspiracy hatched by the BJP. “This letter clearly has been written as an afterthought…BJP has conspired against the MVA government by putting officials under pressure from agencies,” state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said.

Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader and party’s chief spokesperson, said that he wasn’t aware of the letter and wouldn’t respond to it. “I have not seen the letter and don’t know anything about it. If the matter is related to the government, the people from the government will respond,” said Raut.

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