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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Rotten MVA government should be dismissed over Ambani bomb threat and extortion bid

The Ambani bomb threat and extortion bid offers a classic case study of how rotten ‘secular’ politics has become and the type of mal-governance such parties deliver when they manage to claw their way to power.

While most in the media are doing their best to paper over the entire mess as just another case of political intrigue, it actually brings into question our entire system of democracy, especially when ideology-free parties come together to cobble a coalition government and immediately go to work, lining their pockets and dispensing favors to their cronies and votebanks, national interest be damned.

The entire MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi) government is under a cloud for its role in planting a bomb outside the house of the biggest industrialist in the country, with the apparent aim of extortion. For the past year, Sachin Vaze, the officer arrested for his direct involvement in this crime, and his boss, Mumbai’s ex-police commissioner Param Bir Singh, were both blue-eyed boys of the government who were used to conduct a witch-hunt against a media house critical of MVA. Vaze is also accused of murdering Mansukh Hiren, the man’s whose SUV he had borrowed and used to place explosives and a threatening letter outside Ambani’s house.

After Vaze’s arrest, the Home Minister Anil Deshmukh tried to throw the Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh under the bus to save his own skin. Singh hit out by alleging in a letter to the CM Uddhav Thackeray that Deshmukh had told Vaze that he had a target to collect Rs 100 crore per month ‘collect’ hafta (protection money) of Rs 100 crore per month from bars and hookah parlours. In the letter, Singh recalled how he had briefed Thackeray, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, NCP President Sharad Pawar and other senior ministers about the misdeeds and malpractices indulged in by Deshmukh.

Deshmukh’s alibi crumbles

Now, this is where things get really farcical. To disprove Singh’s claims that a meeting had taken place between Deshmukh and Vaze at the former’s official residence ‘Dyaneshwari’ in Mumbai around mid February, Deshmukh claimed that he was not in Mumbai at the time. He said he was admitted in Nagpur’s Alexis Hospital from 5-15 February due to a Covid-19 infection, and after being discharged was in quarantine from 15-27 February at his home in Nagpur. The same defense was put forward by Sharad Pawar during a press conference in Delhi.

When reporters questioned this version by pointing out that there is a video of Deshmukh addressing a press conference on 15th February, a flummoxed Pawar tried to stall before an aide whispered ‘video conference’ which Pawar gratefully fed to media. But this too got busted as the video evidence shows it was a live press conference conducted in the open with guards and media mikes right in front of Deshmukh. A flustered Pawar ultimately accused the reporters of diverting from ‘more serious’ issues, and rebuked one reporter in particular ‘enough is enough’! Years of being fed lollypop questions by a servile Marathi media has probably given him a sense of being invulnerable.

Now, even more damning evidence in the form of a passenger manifest of a private charter airline, with the name ‘Hon. Shri Anil Deshmukh ji’ has come to light. The flight from Nagpur to Mumbai departed on 15 Feb 2021 at 2 PM IST. The discharge letter of Alexis Hospital also said that Deshmukh was ‘fit to fly and non-infectious’; such certificates are issued only when a patient is keen on immediate travel.

Netizens also dug up Deshmukh’s tweet from February 18 where he said he had attended last rites of one of his security guards who had died in an accident, further busting his claim of being in home quarantine that entire duration from 15 to 27 Feb. Police manifests also indicate that Deshmukh was in Mumbai on 17 and 24 Feb, ex-CM Fadnavis revealed.

But the bottomline is this – there is no way Param Bir Singh or Vaze were operating without full knowledge of the MVA Home Minister, CM, Deputy CM and other senior leaders of this opportunistic coalition. To anyone familiar with Maharashtra politics, Param Bir Singh’s allegations about institutionalized extortion will not come as a surprise.

Sharad Pawar and the rot in Maharashtra politics

Param Bir Singh has an old history of doing dirty jobs for the Congress-NCP, and Vaze had joined Shiv Sena during his long suspension from the police force over an alleged custodial death, before his sudden re-induction in July 2020.

Singh was appointed as Mumbai Police Commissioner within months of the MVA govt being sworn in. In his previous stint leading the state’s ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau), Singh had given a clean chit to Deputy CM and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar in a massive irrigation scam. Param Bir Singh is also accused of brutal torture in 2008 by Sadhvi Pragya and Col. Purohit when he was part of the Maharashtra ATS team tasked by UPA to prove ‘Hindu terror’ in the Malegaon blast case. A Congress-NCP government was in power in Maharashtra at the time, and then state Home Minister RR Patil, of the NCP, had infamously remarked after the 26/11 terror attack that ‘in big cities like this, small incidents do happen’.

In his letter, Singh also referred to the recent death of Dadra & Nagar Haveli MP Mohan Delkar at a Mumbai hotel, in which Deshmukh had reportedly insisted that the Mumbai Police should register a case of “abetment of suicide” to derive political mileage. Remember, the MVA govt using Param Bir Singh and Vaze had also reopened the closed Anvay Naik suicide case to target and arrest Arnab Goswami on a similar “abetment of suicide” charge.

But at the end of the day, the man pulling the strings of this coalition is the most notorious and cynical political figure in Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar. That he still manages to retain a veneer of an elder statesman (he was actually awarded the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan in 2017) is a blot on our multi-party democracy and shows just how hollow our system truly is. Name any major corruption scam in the last few decades and you will find a Pawar link. A Hindu-hater who has managed to mask his true self through adroit media management, Pawar’s closeness to terrorist don Dawood Ibrahim is only spoken of in whispers. This ‘national leader’ once openly exhorted voters to commit fraud by voting twice in different constituencies.

As Maharashtra CM when the first major terror attack on Mumbai, the 12 serial bomb blasts of 1993 engineered by Dawood and ISI, took place, Pawar actually invented a 13th blast in a Muslim-dominated locality and hinted at LTTE involvement to ‘secularise’ the crime!

Even now, the media chatter around this Ambani bomb threat and extortion case is only limited to whether Deshmukh will be dismissed – as if getting rid of a light-weight politician like Deshmukh will transform this sorry excuse of a coalition government. MVA should have been sacked for its pathetic handling of the Covid-19 pandemic itself, letting it continue after this current episode will be like abandoning the people of Maharashtra to a known gang of criminals.

If we were truly serious about governance, our entire electoral system should be reformed to prevent such exploitative and  crooked politicians from ever coming to power. It is far better to be a functional nation serving its citizens, than worry about the ‘liberal democracy’ tag handed out by some obscure Western think tank with a neo-colonial agenda.

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