Sharad Pawar calls NCP meet, Maharashtra ‘letter bomb’ may scalp Anil Deshmukh
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has convened an urgent meeting of top party leaders in Delhi on Sunday evening that may seal the fate of Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh after former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s damning letter alleging that Deshmukh had asked police officers to collect ₹100 crore every month.
The party is expected to take a call on the replacement of Deshmukh who is also a senior NCP leader.
Pawar convened the meeting in the backdrop of the huge controversy triggered by Singh’s letter to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday. The letter is seen as a major embarrassment for the NCP than to the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government.
In his email, Singh, who was shunted out as Mumbai police commissioner on Wednesday, alleged that Deshmukh was indulged in malpractices and had asked suspended assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze and other officers from Mumbai police to collect ₹100 crore a month from bars, pubs, restaurants and hookah parlours.
Deshmukh has refuted the allegations and has threatened to sue Singh for defamation. He has also said that Singh was making the allegations to save himself from future action as the links of the Vaze case were reaching him.
“It is a huge embarrassment for the party. The allegations of ‘collection’ are directly against the party leader who has already been in soup for the inept handling of the Antilia bomb scare and Hiran death case. He may be asked to resign but a cabinet reshuffle may not happen immediately. The additional charge of the department is likely to be given to either deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar or water resources minister Jayant Patil. Pawar is believed to be not very keen on holding the home department, and in such a case Patil will be asked to hold the portfolio once again,” said a senior NCP leader who did not wish to be named.
Another party leader and state health minister Rajesh Tope was reportedly another choice for the post, but the party’s top leadership said to be insisting on a stronger leader to handle the home department in the current scenario.
“Tope has been doing a very good job in his incumbent portfolio, but the way the home department is in the mess currently, it needs a strong leader like Pawar or Patil. Some of the top IPS officers are believed to be in constant touch with state BJP leaders and it has proved to be detrimental to the MVA government,” the leader said.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut too is expected to meet Sharad Pawar in Delhi on Sunday evening.
According to another NCP leader, the meeting is also expected to discuss the party’s candidate for Pandharpur-Mangalvedha assembly bypoll to be held next month.
“The meeting, called by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is expected to be attended by senior party leader Praful Patel, Supriya Sule, Sunil Tatkare along with Ajit Pawar and Jayant Patil. Pawar saheb is on tour of poll-bound states and is expected to return to Delhi by afternoon. The meeting will be held in the evening at his Delhi residence,” he said.
Param Bir Singh, who was removed as Mumbai’s commissioner of police on March 17, had also alleged in his letter that Deshmukh had interfered in the police force.
The opposition BJP has demanded that Deshmukh resign immediately or be sacked. The BJP staged agitations across Maharashtra demanding Deshmukh’s resignation.