All eyes on the New Delhi meet today as the Maharashtra government alliance battles a rift.

Highlights

  • The alliance partners are scheduled to meet this afternoon in New Delhi
  • Both Sena and NCP have agreed that allegations will be probed
  • NCP leader Sharad Pawar has ruled out Anil Deshmukh’s resignation

New Delhi/Mumbai:
Hours before Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition was scheduled to meet today to decide the future of the state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s party brought down the temperature a notch on the matter. Despite former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh’s allegations against the senior NCP leader, the Shiv Sena has questioned the need for his resignation if the key parties are open to the idea of probing the issue. A letter written to Mr Thackeray by the former top cop, accusing the Home Minister of corruption, had caused tension within the alliance, with NCP leader Sharad Pawar ruling out Mr Deshmukh’s resignation even as the party left the decision to the Chief Minister. A senior leader of the state’s ruling alliance had told NDTV earlier that the allegations were “serious” and that Mr Thackeray himself felt he must go. The coalition’s crisis is linked to investigations into the discovery of an SUV carrying explosives on February 25 near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s home.

  1. A crucial political meeting of the Maharashtra government alliance partners scheduled for this afternoon in New Delhi was to decide the future of the 16-month-old state government. It came amid a rift over the crisis involving state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, with the Shiv Sena earlier viewing him as a liability. Yet, the party today asked why his resignation was being discussed when both the Chief Minister and the NCP chief had agreed that the contents of “letter bomb” must be probed.

  2. Mr Pawar has summoned the top party leadership of the state, including Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state party chief Jayant Patil to New Delhi today to take a call on Mr Deshmukh. The NCP founder suggested that former police officer Julio Ribeiro probe the allegations against the Home Minster, but the retired cop refused.

  3. Mr Thackeray himself has called a meeting of the state law and justice ministry officials at 4.30 pm today. This gains prominence in the wake of his decision to keep a closer eye on the Home Ministry. Former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh had alleged, in a letter to the Chief Minister, that Mr Deshmukh had interfered with the Ambani bomb scare probe and led an extortion racket with suspended policeman Sachin Vaze – a Shiv Sena member. Mr Singh said he had asked the police to collect Rs 100 crore every month and instructed officials on the handling of cases, bypassing him and other officers.

  4. Mr Singh was replaced as police chief last week owing to the alleged mismanagement of the Ambani bomb scare case. His letter to the Chief Minister followed his removal as Mumbai Police Commissioner. Mr Deshmukh has now threatened to sue him for defamation.

  5. Mr Vaze, with a controversial history, was the initial probing officer in the Ambani case, but was later found by the NIA to be a part of the conspiracy itself. He had joined the Shiv Sena during an earlier period of suspension in the 2000s.

  6. According to the NIA, he was closely associated with the Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran, to whom the SUV found on Mumbai’s Carmichael Road was traced back. The auto parts dealer had reported the vehicle as stolen a week before it was found near Mr Ambani’s residence.

  7. Mr Hiran was then found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Thane creek on March 5. The Maharashtra ATS arrested a former cop, now on furlough, and a bookie in this connection. The businessman’s wife had alleged Mr Vaze’s involvement in the death.

  8. Notably, Mr Hiran’s wife had also alleged that the suspended cop had used the same SUV for around four months till returning it on February 5.

  9. Referring to Mr Vaze, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had earlier this month asked, “Is he Osama bin Laden?” The NCP chief had reportedly questioned the Sena’s involvement with a person as dodgy as Mr Vaze. A party leader had also termed the allegations against Mr Deshmukh “serious”. However, Mr Pawar also raised the issue of the timing of the allegations.

  10. The Shiv Sena had earlier questioned the need for the NIA to probe the Ambani bomb scare case, which, it said, the Maharashtra ATS could have handled. The NIA has now taken over the case of Mr Hiran’s death, too.

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