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Pawar backs Deshmukh, BJP demands his resignation

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 22, 2021

NCP chief says Minister was in hospital during said period, Fadnavis pooh-poohs claim

As the NCP dug in its heels supporting Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, the scandal following allegations of corruption against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh caused disturbances in both Houses of Parliament as the BJP demanded Deshmukh’s resignation.

NCP veteran Sharad Pawar said allegations against Deshmukh pertain to a period when he was hospitalised due to Covid-19 and hence the question of his resignation “does not arise”. “We got information that Deshmukh was hospitalised at that time in Nagpur. The allegations pertain to exactly the same period when he was in hospital. There is a hospital certificate,” Pawar said.

Deshmukh is a member of the NCP which is part of the Maharashtra Vikas Agadi alliance of Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress in power in the State.

BJP offensive

Almost simultaneously, the BJP mounted a counter-offensive with party leader Devendra Fadnavis contradicting Pawar on Twitter. “Shri Sharad Pawar ji said,from 15th to 27th February HM Anil Deshmukh was in home quarantine… But actually along with security guards and media he was seen addressing a press conference!” Fadnavis tweeted.

Deshmukh, on his part, reiterated that he was admitted to Nagpur'’s Alexis Hospital from February 5 to February 15 as he had contracted Covid-19 and discharged on February 15. “Several journalists were standing outside the hospital as I was stepping out of it. They wanted to ask me some questions. I was feeling weak since I had just recovered from Covid-19. So, I sat on a chair near the gate and replied to queries of journalists. Then I immediately got into the vehicle and got home quarantined,” Deshmukh said.

The issue pertains to an eight-page letter by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in which he claimed that the Maharashtra Home Minister had asked suspended police officer Sachin Vaze to collect political donation of over ₹100 crore. Vaze is in the custody of the National Investigation Agency in a case relating to a vehicle with explosive materials parked near the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence.

‘Take action’

Meanwhile, in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State Anurag Thakur demanded “appropriate action” against Deshmukh. Speaking during the Question Hour in Lok Sabha, Thakur noted that the allegation that Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect ₹100 crore per month, is a “matter of concern”.

“MPs not only from Maharashtra, but from all over India are concerned about the serious allegation of corruption (against Anil Deshmukh )... The State Government should take appropriate action on the issue,” he said. Several other BJP MPs also demanded Deshmukh’s resignation amid protests from the Opposition. Treasury benches in Rajya Sabha too raised the issue but the Chair did not allow the discussion.

Published on March 22, 2021

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