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Trouble looms for former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh after FIR

Former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh is likely to be in more trouble as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a first information report (FIR) and conducted searches at his residences
UPDATED ON APR 25, 2021 12:31 AM IST

Former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh is likely to be in more trouble as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a first information report (FIR) and conducted searches at his residences. Leaders from the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government feel that the recent developments could make it difficult for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader to make a political comeback.

CBI is probing the allegations against Deshmukh made by former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh claiming that the NCP leader, during his tenure as home minister, had told officers from the crime branch to collect 100 crore a month from commercial establishments. The Bombay high court (HC) had ordered a preliminary inquiry by CBI into the allegations made by Singh. CBI had recently questioned Deshmukh and staff from his office in connection with the case.

The ruling parties have alleged the probe by the central agency to be politically motivated and an attempt to defame the state government and its leaders.

NCP’s Maharashtra unit chief Jayant Patil condemned the raids at Deshmukh’s residence.

“CBI appears to be using the court’s inquiry order to defame Deshmukh. Four people have been grilled by CBI so far, but it is not clear if the agency has submitted its preliminary inquiry report to the court. The probe is being conducted on the complaints by the police officers who have either been arrested or are under scanner in the Antilia explosives scare and Mansukh Hiran death cases. The raids by CBI are for the political reasons,” he said.

His party colleague and state minority affairs minister Nawab Malik questioned why has the National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing the Antilia explosives scare and Mansukh Hiran death cases, not revealed what it found about the roles played by suspended cop Sachin Vaze and his bosses in the police.

Shiv Sena’s chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut raised questions over the searches conducted by CBI.

“Something fishy is going on. Hon Bombay HC had asked CBI to conduct preliminary probe and submit a report. Raids on his residence, lodging an FIR against him… this is a bit too much. It does not seem to be logical (sic),” he had tweeted, adding that he hopes that the action against Deshmukh was restricted to the HC directives.

Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole alleged that CBI action was being used by the central government to divert the country’s attention from its failure in handling the pandemic and incidents like the deaths of patients at Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.

Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Chandrakant Patil said that there are few more leaders in MVA government to “face the music”.

“Some of them have been facing the probe, while some others are in the offing. There needs to be an inquiry of transport minister Anil Parab, one Mr Ghoadavat who has been named by Vaze in the extortion racket. Vaze has also named deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. MVA leaders are blaming BJP for the [CBI] action, but it’s a court ordered inquiry,” he said.

Though the ruling party leaders have been claiming the probe to be politically motivated, they secretly admit that the situation should have been handled properly.

“Like the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, we faulted on handling this case too. The ruling parties should have acted quickly in taking action on Singh’s allegations by appointing the probe panel immediately. Deshmukh should have been removed from the department immediately. Instead of it, the NCP top brass went out of the way and stood by him without taking any action,” said a Congress leader, requesting anonymity.

An NCP minister said that the party failed to anticipate the judicial intervention, which was actually the writing on the wall.

“More importantly, we could not keep our own serving officers like Singh from taking steps against the government,” he said.

Retired IPS (Indian Police Service) officer PK Jain said that the entire episode of the alleged ‘extortion racket’ was shoddily handled by MVA government.

“The government did not take cognisance of the very serious allegations levelled by a senior IPS officer, and it was against the spirit of the SC (Supreme Court) order in the Lalita Kumar case that mandates for an FIR in corruption charges. But the government did not even take cognisance of the allegations when they were brought to the knowledge of chief minister, his deputy or even NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Had the government initiated an inquiry at the time the allegations had been levelled or divested the minister of the portfolio, CBI could not have got the chance to step in,” he said.

An NCP leader said that the CBI probe may make it difficult for Deshmukh to make a political comeback.

“BJP has systematically used the central agencies against the leaders from the Opposition parties. Many of them joined BJP. Deshmukh may have to pay a huge price for the entire episode,” he said.

Patil said that blaming BJP for the action was laughable as it was court ordered probe.

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