What began as a case of explosives in a car has turned politically explosive.
In a sensational twist to the scandal that has snowballed since gelatin sticks were recovered from a Scorpio parked outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence on February 25, just-transferred Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh alleged in a letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray that state home minister Anil Deshmukh had set assistant police inspector Sachin Waze “a target to accumulate Rs 100 crore every month”.
Singh claimed that to achieve the monthly “target” of Rs 100 crore, Deshmukh told Waze, who was heading the crime intelligence unit, in mid-February that “there are about 1,750 bars, restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai and if a sum of Rs 2-3 lakh each was collected from each of them, a monthly collection of Rs 40-50 crore was achievable”. The rest of the “collection”, Singh quoted Deshmukh as telling Waze, “could be made from other sources”. To support his allegation, Singh enclosed several WhatsApp messages, purportedly between himself and one assistant commissioner of police (Sanjay Patil), dated March 16 and 19.
The letter alleging extortion, which was also sent to governor B S Koshyari, plunged the Uddhav Thackeray government into a fresh crisis and could complicate matters within the ruling alliance as Singh said he had, at a late-evening briefing session on the Antilia case at the CM’s official residence Varsha in mid-March, “pointed out several misdeeds and malpractices being indulged into by the Hon’ble Home Minister” and had “similarly briefed” NCP chief Sharad Pawar, deputy CM Ajit Pawar and other senior ministers. Singh said he “noticed that some of the ministers were already aware about some aspects”.
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Singh also alleged Deshmukh had forced him to file an abetment to suicide case after Dadra and Nagar Haveli MP Mohan Delkar killed himself in a Mumbai hotel despite “expert legal advice” that Mumbai police didn’t have jurisdiction to do so.
While the CMO said they are examining the unsigned letter that did not come from Singh’s listed private email account, Deshmukh rubbished Singh’s charges, saying he was making “false allegations to save and protect himself from legal action”. He added he would file “a defamation case” against Singh.
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Allies Shiv Sena and NCP have been blaming each other for mishandling the car explosives case, which has got murkier by the day with the discovery of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran’s body in a creek — first registered as an accidental death, then murder — and the suspension of Waze on March 15 after opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis of BJP made a series of disclosures in the assembly.
Singh was shunted out by the CM on Wednesday, apparently on NCP’s insistence, but Sharad Pawar’s party has so far put off demands for Deshmukh’s resignation.
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Singh said Deshmukh’s instruction to Waze to collect money was made at his official residence Dyaneshwar in the presence of his private secretary Sanjay Palande. “After the meeting, Waze came to my office the same day and informed me of the entire incident. I was shocked,” Singh stated.
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A few days later, Singh said, ACP Patil, in-charge of the social service branch, too was called by Deshmukh along with DCP Bhujbal to discuss hookah parlours in the city. This meeting was also attended by Palande, who informed Patil and another police office, DCP Bhujbal, that the home minister was “targeting a collection of Rs 40-50 crore, which was possible through 1,750 bars and restaurants operating in Mumbai”. “Patil informed me about the demand made by HM. The aforesaid meeting took place on March 4,” Singh said.
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In his letter, Singh attached the WhatsApp conversation he had with ACP Patil. “Deshmukh has been repeatedly calling my officers and giving them instructions in respect of the course to be followed by them in performance of their official duties. HM has been calling my officials to his official residence bypassing me and other superior officers. Deshmukh had been explaining to the officers the collection schemes…. these corrupt malpractices have been brought to my notice by the officers,” Singh alleged.
On the Delkar suicide case, Singh said as per rules and conventions, the case should have been entrusted to the Nagara Haveli police for further probe, but Deshmukh insisted an abetment to suicide case be registered in Mumbai and announced setting up of a special investigation team. “HM desired that a case of abetment to commit suicide be registered in Mumbai, while the legal view was that all the alleged acts had taken place in Nagara Haveli, as such, it should be probed by the police of the UT,” Singh said.
Singh claimed that in his more-than-a-year-long stint as Mumbai CP, “the HM had on several occasions called officers of Mumbai police to his official residence for giving instructions to adopt specific course of action in police investigation. These acts of political interference are illegal and unconstitutional and judicial authorities have come down heavily on such practices.”
Deshmukh had said on Thursday that Singh was shifted as DG, home guards, due to serious lapses in the probe into the explosives case. Singh said he had been “made a scapegoat to divert attention from the actual wrongdoers… the observations of the HM against me are all statements contrary to the records and seem to be far extraneous and vindictive”.