The Parliament witnessed an uproar today over allegations of corruption made against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh by former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh. The treasury benches in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha demanded Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s resignation and a central probe into the matter, asking if the senior NCP leader was being protected. The Shiv Sena hit back saying such allegations were being made only by the “most corrupt” of all. The heated exchanges come on a day when leaders of the state’s ruling alliance were scheduled to meet to decide the future course even amid indications that a perceived rift over the matter was already on the mend.
The genesis of today’s ruckus in Parliament lies in a letter written by former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Mr Singh, to Chief Minister Thackeray. In it, he accused Mr Deshmukh of using the police to extort up to Rs 100 crore every month and interference in cases. He wrote the letter days after being removed from his position over tardy progress in the Ambani bomb scare matter under his watch.
While Mr Deshmukh has denied the allegation and even threatened a defamation suit against the top cop, the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi combine has felt the repercussions of the charge. The opposition, led by former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has demanded the state Home Minister’s resignation or, if that doesn’t come through, his ouster by Mr Thackeray.
In Parliament today, multiple BJP members raised the issue.
In the Rajya Sabha, BJP MPs demanded the sacking of the Maharashtra government. They raised slogan “Maharashtra sarkar barkhast karo”. Union Minister Prakash Javedkar, among others, tried to raise this issue but the Chair did not allow them to make any statement. The House was then adjourned till 2 pm amid the din.
In the Lok Sabha, the BJP’s Jabalpur MP, Rakesh Singh, said, “Maharashtra has a government of mismatched coalition. What is the reason that the Home Minister is being protected? This needs to be probed in an unbiased manner by central agencies…The Chief Minister must resign.”
The matter of the Rs 100 crore extortion allegation was also raised by the BJP’s Mumbai Northeast MP Manoj Kotak. “In Mumbai alone, it is Rs 100 crore. How much money is been procured from other cities of Maharashtra? I want this to be investigated. I also want that the Home Minister to resign,” he said.
Another MP, Kapil Moreshwar Patil alleged that Mr Deshmukh was being saved because otherwise he may reveal other names involved.
Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur spoke sharply about “vasool (collection) in Maharashtra” – “collection” being a euphemism for extortion.
“The allegations being made in Maharashtra are a serious matter. It involves Rs 100 crore, although the matter doesn’t pertain to this House,” he said.
The Shiv Sena shot back against these charges alleging that CSR funds of public sector units were being diverted for the Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujarat, and towards the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
Vinayak Raut, the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg MP, said, “This is an attempt to destabilise the state government. Who are these people raising questions over Param Bir Singh’s letter? They are the ‘most corrupt’.”
The Shiv Sena MPs later staged a walkout of the House saying they weren’t given an opportunity to respond to the BJP MPs. Notably, the Congress and NCP MPs stayed put in the House.
Speaking later, the NCP’s Supriya Sule cited the permission given to eight BJP MPs to speak during Zero Hour, even though they were not listed, and called it a “black day” for the House.