Pawar says claims serious; focus on Deshmukh's replacement

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(Eds: adds details, combines related stories) Mumbai, Mar 21 (PTI) NCP president Sharad Pawar on Sunday said Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will decide the fate of Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who is facing corruption allegations by former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh.

Pawar's comments came during a media briefing at Delhi amid speculation in state political circles that Maharashtra may soon have a new home minister.

The allegations leveled by Singh against Dehsmukh are serious and require an in-depth probe, Pawar said.

Singh has claimed Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect Rs 100 crore monthly from bars and hotels.

Pawar suggested that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will take a decision in this matter and also action against Deshmukh.

Pawar said neither Thackeray nor Deshmukh were responsible for reinstatement of police officer Sachin Waze in the police force last year.

The NCP chief said he has spoken to Thackeray regarding Singh's letter.

'I would suggest Thackeray to seek former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro's help for looking into the claims made by Param Bir Singh,' he said. It was not clear if Ribeiro is willing to be roped in.

'We will take a decision on Deshmukh by tomorrow,' he said. Deshmukh's side also needs to be heard before taking any decision, he added.

Pawar said Singh had complained to him aboutpolitical interference in police department. He said Singh had spoken of reports about his transfer, saying it would be an injustice to him.

Pawar said Singh made the allegations after his transfer on March 17 to the Home Guards.

There is no impact on the MVA government because of Singh's allegations, Pawar said. Efforts are on to destabilise the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra but they will prove futile, he added.

In the eight-page letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Singh alleged that Deshmukh used to call police officers to his official residence and give them a 'collection target' from bars, restaurants and other establishments.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut admitted that the allegations made by Singh against Deshmukh and about the Waze case have tainted the image of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.

Raut saio all the MVA allies need to introspect if their feet are on the ground.

Former chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said Pawar was trying to save the Maha Vikas Aghadi government amid allegations of corruption leveled by Singh against Deshmukh.

'How were important postings and cases given to Waze without the knowledge of the chief minister and the home minister?' Fadnavis told reporters in Nagpur.

Waze is in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his alleged role in placing an explosives- laden SUV outside the south Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani last month.

The NIA is also probing the alleged murder of Thane- based businessman Mansukh Hiran who was in possession of that SUV.

'As the architect of the MVA government, Pawar is trying to save it, Fadnavis said and reiterated his demand for resignation of Deshmukh and a court-monitored probe into the allegations made by Singh.

'Waze (a former encounter specialist who was suspended after the alleged custodial death of bomb blast suspect Khwaja Yunis in 2003) was reinstated by a committee headed by Param Bir Singh. But how is it possible that he got important cases and postings without the knowledge of the CM and the home minister?' Fadnavis said.

Former MP Sanjay Nirupam said his Congress party must take a stand on Singh's claim that Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect Rs 100 crore monthly from bars and hotels.

Meanwhile, BJP workers on Sunday staged demonstrations in various parts of the state demanding Deshmukh's resignation over Singh's letter.

BJP workers led by former state energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule staged protests at Sanvidhan square in Nagpur and raised slogans against the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

A demonstration was organised by BJP Yuva Morcha wokers outside Deshmukh's residence in Nagpur. PTI MR CLS NP VT VT VT