Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who is accused of corruption and whose resignation has been demanded by the opposition BJP, met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday night. The meeting, which lasted for nearly an hour, took place at Mr Thackeray’s official residence.
Earlier today Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad launched a blistering attack on Mr Deshmukh, and accused him of extorting money for police transfers to positions of power.
“The Home Minister of Maharashtra is extorting money for transfers and postings. Was the minister taking money for himself, his party, or his government is yet to be known,” Mr Prasad said.
Mr Deshmukh has also been accused – by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh – of running an extortion racket with the help of other cops including Sachin Waze, the officer arrested in the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case.
They were allegedly given a target of Rs 100 crore per month.
Mr Deshmukh has, so far, been staunchly defended by his party – the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is part of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi that is in power in the state.
Regarding the cash-for-transfers allegation, which is based on a report by IPS officer Rashmi Shukla, the party has said it is a “false claim”. The party said 80 per cent of those transfers had yet to take place, and that these were “false claims… based on illegal phone tapping”.
Regarding the extortion allegations, on Monday NCP boss Sharad Pawar lashed out. He said the allegations were designed to divert focus from inquiries into the Mukesh Ambani security case. NCP leader Jayant Patil this week said “there is no question of the Home Minister resigning“.
Mr Pawar said Mr Deshmukh was recovering from a COVID-19 infection during the period he was allegedly indulging in “extortion activities”. He said the Home Minister was in hospital from February 5 to 15, and in home isolation in Nagpur from February 15 to 27.
The ‘alibi’, however, was questioned by the BJP after an airline ticket, which suggests Mr Deshmukh took a private jet from Nagpur to Mumbai on February 15, began circulating online.
Mr Deshmukh later put out a video statement defending himself, and insisting that fake news was being propagated against him. He said he took a private plane to Mumbai after his discharge from hospital – he was being treated for COVID-19 – on February 15.
— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) March 22, 2021
The BJP – the opposition party in Maharashtra – has jumped on this matter and is demanding the resignation of Mr Deshmukh.
The party’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted: “Sharad Pawar claims Anil Deshmukh was in hospital from 5-15 Feb and in quarantine from 16-27 Feb. But Anil Deshmukh was holding a press conference on 15 Feb…How lies fall flat!”
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also took a swipe, suggesting that veteran politician Sharad Pawar had been improperly briefed by his party.
The controversy erupted after Param Bir Singh was transferred from the Mumbai top cop job following “unforgivable” lapses in the Mukesh Ambani security scare case.
Mr Singh then wrote to Chief Minister Thackeray with the allegations against Mr Deshmukh.
On Monday he moved the Supreme Court seeking an “impartial and fair investigation” by the CBI into “various corrupt malpractices” of Mr Deshmukh.