Goings-on in Maharashtra Not Raising Government’s Esteem in People’s Eyes
A very ugly situation is developing in the State of Maharashtra in the matter of investigation of narcotics cases. A Maharashtra minister is all out against the NCB team head because he has dared to investigate the cases involving the son-in-law of a Maharashtra minister and he had to remain in jail for eight-nine months. Aggrieved by this the minister has gone all-out against the NCB going into his caste, his religion, his marriage and what not. An anonymous letter was also received by the Minister. Efforts are being made, somehow or the other, to get the investigation out of his hands. This is not going to raise the Maharashtra government’s esteem in the eyes of the people. It will also leave behind a bad example in which the constitutional institutions of the executive and the judiciary will get humbled.
The present Maharashtra Vikas Agadhi government led by Uddhav Thakre as chief minister took office in November 2019. Since then every now and then the Uddhav Thakre government has been plagued by one controversy or the other.
It would also not be wrong to say that acting in a vindictive manner seems to have been the dharma of this government. It would not be an exaggeration to say the sense of ‘intolerance’ is ingrained in the blood and veins of this government.
First this government which, otherwise, boasts of respecting the freedom of thought and expression, took offence at the TV channel REPUBLIC whose editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami raised issues not palatable to the government. In retaliation certain cases were framed against him.
When noted film actress Kangna Ranaut criticized the functioning of the Maharashtra police she became a persona non grata for the government. Its officials and party functionaries went to the extent of calling her not to come to Mumbai. She was in Himachal Pradesh at that time. Shiv Sena Mahila wing even threatened a protest if she came. Shiv Sena led Mumbai Mayor went to the extent of ordering its officials to remove the ‘unauthorised’ structure raised by her in her house. They did.
Kangna was not deterred and she did visit Mumbai. She went against the Mumbai Metropolis Corporation demolition of her house to the High Court which set aside the order. Kangna had the last laugh.
It is also interesting to note that Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Waze, also known as “encounter cop” who, along with three other, had been under suspension following orders of the Bombay High Court for the last 16 years for his involvement in a case of custodial death. He was reinstated at the hands of the Police Commissioner Paramvir Singh during the Agadhi rule following a meeting on June 5, 2020.
Just after 4 days of his reinstatement Waze was made to head the Crime Intelligence Unit to handle many high profile cases. When the Ambani security case surfaced he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and during the investigation Waze was found to be involved in other cases too. Ultimately, he was dismissed from service.
In the meantime, the Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, who was extolled by the Agadhi government, was transferred. Singh did not take his transfer lightly. He hit back alleging that the then Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who belongs to NCP, had wanted ₹100 crores per month from him. There were demands for Deshmukh’[s resignation. But the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar appeared to have performed the dual role of the investigating officer and the judiciary to declare that there was no substance in the allegations against Deshmukh and he need not resign.
In the meantime, the High Court ordered that the case be handed over to the CBI. This made Deshmukh’s fate in the Uddhav’s cabinet turn turtle. He had to resign. As the investigation progressed and CBI summoned Deshmukh for interrogation, he didn’t turn up making many excuses. Now he has gone ignato and is untraceable. This is the story of an “innocent” minister.
The same happened to the ex-Mumbai Police Commissioner and all efforts to contact or trace him failed. Now there is speculation that he may have flown out of the country via Nepal.
This is the story of the Mumbai Police under Commissioner Parambir Singh and Home Minister Deshmukh. Shiv Sena spokesperson had felt proud of the Mumbai police.
Now the story takes another turn. The Narcoticss Control Board (NCB) led by NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede charged the son-in-law of another Agadhi minister Nawab Malik under anti-narcotics law. The minister declared his son-in-law “innocent” and blamed NDA for misusing the law to harass political opponents. It is just not a display of sense of intolerance on his part but also an instance of one institution (executive) of the Constitution expressing lack of faith in the other institution of judiciary. If his son-in-law was not granted a bail and he had to remain under NCB and judicial custody for 8-9 months, it was done not by NCB but by the judiciary which must have been convinced that a prima facie case did exist against him.
That Minister Malik has gone to the extent of digging records of the NCB officer Wankhede’s birth, caste, marriage and recruitment. This exercise is solely motivated by Mr Malik’s feeling offended for hauling up his son-in-law and nothing else. This does not form part of his duties as a minister. No person has directly alleged that Mr. Wankhede demanded a bribe in his presence but somebody saying he “overheard” it. That person has not appeared before anybody since then.
Now minister Malik has come out with an “anonymous”, unsigned letter written to him by “an officer of the NCB” with a copy to Maharashtra CM, and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi etc. Why did he not write to the Director NCB, Union Home Minister, Prime Minister, Central Vigilance Commission or the President of India? The “NCB officer” is naïve not to know that action, if any, has to be taken by these authorities and not by the Maharashtra ministers and the Congress President. That speaks of the genuineness of the letter. Further, the officer has also not cited any evidence to substantiate his allegations.
The NCB has commenced a vigilance inquiry against him. Truth will certainly prevail in the end. All efforts of the people concerned seem to be concentrated on derailing the investigation into the cases he is pursuing. If they succeed that will be the victory not of truth but of those who are trying to upstage it. That will set a bad example for others to imitate it.
All such actions are not raising the esteem of the present Maharashtra government in the eyes of the people.
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator.)