Pawar gives clean chit to Deshmukh, BJP not convinced


A day after terming extortion allegations levelled against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh as “serious”, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar on Monday punched holes into claims of former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, while awarding clean chit to the party lawmaker.

Addressing a press meet in Delhi, Pawar produced medical documents, describing how between 5 February to 15 February, Deshmukh was in Nagpur hospital, recovering from Covid-19 infection. He said Deshmukh was in further self-isolation between 15 February to 27 February.

“I am putting documentary evidence before you all. The time period during which Mr Deshmukh held meetings with police officials as per claims of Mr Singh, he was in hospital and later in self-quarantine. This takes away credence of claims of Mr Singh,’ Pawar said.

However, a barrage of questions was shot at Pawar after BJP leader Amit Malviya tweeted a video in the middle of Pawar’s press conference, which showed Deshmukh holding a full-fledged press conference on 15 February.

However, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadvanis remained unconvinced with the documents provided by Pawar and wondered if he was properly briefed about the issue or not before holding the press conference.

Highlighting a particular paragraph of Param Bir Singh’s letter, Fadvanis tweeted: “It seems Sharad Pawarji is not briefed properly on Parambir Singh letter. In this letter only, the SMS evidence shows that the meeting date was mentioned as end of February. Now who is diverting the issue?”

Later in the day, Deshmukh himself tried to set the record straight about his alleged meetings and press conference on 15 February.

He claimed that the said press conference happened at the gate of the hospital, wherein he was admitted following insistence of mediapersons. “It is unfortunate that the opposition is playing politics over my illness,” Deshmukh said.

Even as Pawar stood firmly behind Deshmukh, the Parliament witnessed uproar as BJP MPs repeated the demand for sacking of the minister, who is in the eye of a storm since former the Mumbai top cop accused him of amassing money through controversial police officer Sachin Vaze.

Talking to The Sunday Guardian, BJP MP Manoj Kotak demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter, wondering why no action was being taken against Deshmukh. “A day before, meetings were being held to decide upon tenacity of Deshmukh in Cabinet and now no action. Param Bir was removed and he spilled beans about Rs 100 crore extortion. What all secrets Deshmukh is holding against the government,” Kotak said.

The Deshmukh row became uglier when Independent MP Navneet Kaur Rana accused Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant of threatening her with life for criticizing the Mahavikas Agadhi government.

“Sawant came to me in the lobby and warned me of dire consequences if I continued to highlight wrongdoings of the Mahavikas Agadhi. I demand Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla to take strict action against him,” Rana said.

Political drama also ran high in Mumbai as Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called a meeting of alliance leaders at Varsha Bungalow, his official residence, to chalk out a strategy for the ongoing controversy. On the other hand, RPI supremo and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale urged Home Minister Amit Shah to impose President’s rule, claiming that the law-and-order situation has collapsed in the state following “Vazegate” and rising Covid-19 infection in the state. “The Maharashtra government has totally failed in fulfilling requirements of the government. Therefore, I recommend you to enforce President’s rule for betterment and safety of the people of Maharashtra,” Athawale said.