Mumbai: Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, fending off allegations that he had discussed a Rs 100-crore extortion racket with a controversial police officer at his home last month, has tweeted a video defending himself after the alibi put forth by his party chief Sharad Pawar yesterday raised questions.
Anil Deshmukh is facing calls for his removal after sacked Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh, in a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, alleged that the minister had drafted many policemen into the job of collecting Rs 100 crore a month and these included Sachin Waze, the officer arrested in the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case. The letter accused Mr Deshmukh of meeting with Sachin Waze at his home around mid-February.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, ruling out Mr Deshmukh’s resignation, said on Monday that the allegations are from a time when the minister was in hospital. Mr Pawar said Mr Deshmukh was in hospital from February 5 to 15 and in home isolation in Nagpur from February 15 to 27. “We will share all these records with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The question of resignation does not arise now,” added Mr Pawar.
Soon after, an airline ticket in Mr Deshmukh’s name for a private flight from Nagpur to Mumbai on February 15 started circulating, which was seen to confirm that he was, in fact, in Mumbai during that critical time period.
Mr Deshmukh posted a video last night detailing his activities and insisting that fake news was being propagated against him.
“You all know that for the last year during the pandemic I travelled the entire state and kept meeting policemen and tried to boost their morale. On February 5, I tested positive for corona. I was in hospital from February 5 to 15. After my discharge on February 15, doctors advised 10-day home quarantine for me. So I took a private flight to Mumbai. And after that, on the doctor’s advice, I used to go to the park for pranayam every night,” Mr Deshmukh said in Marathi.
He said while in hospital in Nagpur and later during his home quarantine, he had attended meetings and events via videoconference.
“After home quarantine, the Maharashtra assembly Budget session was to start so to brief me on the questions and notices, some officers used to come to my home. I left home for the first time on February 28,” he said.
The BJP – the opposition party in Maharashtra – seized on the mismatch of dates following Mr Pawar’s comments and produced photos of what it said was a press conference addressed by Mr Deshmukh on February 15.
The BJP’s 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!”
“It seems Sharad Pawar- ji is not briefed properly on Param Bir Singh letter. In this letter only, the SMS evidence shows that the meeting date was mentioned as end of February. Now who is diverting issue?” the BJP’s former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said.
Sachin Waze, whose alleged meeting with the state Home Minister is the most explosive allegation in the former top cop’s letter, is being investigated over his role in the case involving an SUV with explosives found near the Mumbai home of Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, on February 25.
The car was stolen from a businessman, Mansukh Hiran, who was found dead in a creek a few days later.
The National Investigation Agency, which took over the probe from the Mumbai police following the allegations against the cop, alleges that Sachin Vaze was closely associated with Mansukh Hiran and may have had a hand in planting the car with explosives.