Anil Deshmukh faces heat over corruption charges: Maharashtra home minister has been in the eye of several controversies
The Maha Vikas Aghadi is currently facing possibly its biggest political crisis, and at the centre of the imbroglio is the state's home minister Anil Deshmukh
The Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra is currently facing possibly its biggest political crisis, and at the centre of the imbroglio is the state's home minister Anil Deshmukh.
Deshmukh is under fire after former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh alleged that the minister had summoned police officer Sachin Waze around mid-February and asked him to help with 'collection' of money from hotels and bars in Mumbai.
On Tuesday, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis leveled fresh allegations against the state government, saying it did not take action on a report submitted by then Commissioner of Intelligence Rashmi Shukla on corruption in police transfers.
Fadnavis said he had "6.3 GB data" of the calls intercepted by then Commissioner of Intelligence Rashmi Shukla with due permissions, where names of several key police officers were discussed.
In response, NCP chief and minister Jayant Patil asked who gave the senior police official permission for phone tapping.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh, who has denied the allegations against him, met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday evening.
"I am extremely disturbed by the slander in various forms of media aimed at maligning my and my department's image," Deshmukh said in a video message.
Nevertheless, the BJP has held protests demanding the state home minister's resignation.
Who is Anil Deshmukh?
Deshmukh hails from the district of Nagpur, and had served as the chairperson of the Nagpur Zilla Parishad in his early years in politics. He has represented the Katol Assembly constituency five times since 1995. In his first term, he was voted to the Assembly as an Independent, and he had supported the Shiv Sena-BJP government. He became the Minister of State for Education and Culture under the Manohar Joshi-led government.
Later, however, Deshmukh broke off ties with the Shiv Sena and BJP, and joined the Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar. Subsequently, he became a Cabinet minister, and at various points of time held the portfolios of public works and food and civil supplies.
He lost the 2014 Assembly election to the BJP, which fielded his nephew Ashish Deshmukh from Katol. However, he won back his traditional seat in 2019.
Although Deshmukh has been an MLA for five terms, he was considered a surprise pick for the home ministry when the Maha Vikas Aghadi came to power. However, he was said to have been backed by Pawar for the post.
An article in The Print quotes political analyst Prakash Bal as saying, "Sharad Pawar wanted someone at the post who is pliable and owes complete loyalty to him. That is why he picked Deshmukh."
In this backdrop, it is little surprise that the NCP supremo has stoutly backed him in the current controversy, and resisted calls for his resignation.
While Deshmukh has been known as a soft-spoken leader who is accessible to the media, he has been in the eye of several controversies in the past.
In April 2020, retired IAS officer and Chairman of the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) Anand Kulkarni took aim at Deshmukh in a sarcastic Facebook post. Kulkarni wrote, "All his (Deshmukh's) acts were governed by high ethical and moral standards. Highlights of his decade-long tenure were his transparent, speedy and straightforward handling of two areas: (1) Allotment of molasses to concerned stakeholders (2) Transfers of excise department officers. I have compiled documents of these honest activities and other areas."
Kulkarni said he intends to make his findings public 'at an appropriate time.' Deshmukh has declined to comment on the matter.
Recently, Deshmukh also made a gaffe while seeking to criticise the BJP in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Speaking about the suicides of late MP Mohan Delkar as well as an IAS official from Madhya Pradesh, Deshmukh stated that both of them would only get justice in Maharashtra and not in their home states that are ruled by the BJP. Responding to this, the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis pointed out that the IAS officer whom Deshmukh referred to hailed from Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, as noted by The Indian Express.
While Deshmukh has survived several such controversies in his political career, he may struggle to emerge unscathed from the allegations made by Param Bir Singh.
With inputs from PTI
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