By Sushil Kutty
Retired top cop Julio Ribeiro doesn’t want to get into the cesspool. It’s too murky and tricky, he says, refusing to take Sharad Pawar’s bait. Devendra Fadnavis also wants Ribeiro to probe Param Bir Singh’s litany of accusations against Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. Pawar says Param Bir cannot be trusted, he was the one who appointed Sachin Vaze. And why did Param Bir Singh wait so long to slamdunk Deshmukh? Also, Singh’s email is unsigned and that too is suspect, says the NCP heavyweight.
Ribeiro says la affaire ‘Vasuli’ is “too murky and tricky” for him to plunge into. Instead, he asks Pawar to do the honours. Fadnavis doesn’t get the time of the day from the 92-year-old. But it’s Fadnavis who has the key to the “tricky and murky.” He’s leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra House and is a penthouse of information. Infact, the BJP’s former CM can’t stop muddying the dank dark waters. Fancy the low tide working to benefit the BJP. Happens only in pulp novels. Kalwa Creek is BJP-friendly!
But like in most fiction, stranger things have happened. Ribeiro called it tricky, murky. Others will call it planned, programmed! Pawar says Param Bir’s litany is high-grade fiction, a bundle of lies wrapped in an unsigned email. Well, an email can only have an electronic footprint and from what we have heard of Param Bir Singh, he’s awfully mechanical! Electronics and software and social media and how to make PPE suits walk are Sachin Vaze’s forte!
Anyway, the Uddhav Thackeray Government is not taking Param Bir Singh seriously. Deshmukh says it’s all make-believe, fertile imagination. Deshmukh’s is a class act. Come to think of it, every act in this multi-act play is a class act! That said, Deshmukh is not going anywhere as long as Sharad Pawar is de facto boss. Param Bir Singh can yell from the top of the Gateway of India for all he wants. All he will get will be a sore throat and flying fish in his mouth!
The Maha Vikas Aghadi is not cowed by the BJP assault. The diagnosis is Param Bir Singh is under tremendous pressure from central agencies and these agencies are under pressure from the Modi Government a.k.a BJP/RSS dispensation. That’s euphemism for Hindu nationalism. Fadnavis’s movements to and fro Mumbai-Delhi are suspicious. Somebody in the national capital is pulling strings. That somebody has to be BJP.
The Congress says the BJP is trying to destabilise the Uddhav Thackeray Government with the help of central agencies. If Singh’s allegations are true, why did he wait till March, and till he was transferred? With Singh’s close aide Sachin Waze in NIA custody, Singh must be under tremendous strain. “Isn’t it strange, BJP leaders gave sound bytes to news channels minutes after Singh’s letter became public?” asks the Congress, convinced Param Bir Singh wanted to throw Anil Deshmukh under the bus to save his own skin.
If that sounds farfetched, how about cops demanding Rs 100 crore in extortion money from bars and restaurants on orders from the home minister? That’s the charge against Anil Deshmukh who has told Sharad Pawar that he’s innocent and should be pardoned for Param Bir’s unaccounted for antics! Of course, the needle of suspicion has only wavered a little from Desmukh, who will be safe till Vaze doesn’t point a finger at him. It’s a bad, bad world out there, especially in Mumbai.
Our focus is on the BJP, and the Modi Government vis a vis Vazegate. What do they want? The fall of the MVA Government or will they settle for Deshmukh’s resignation? Of course, the dismantling of the Maha Vikas Aghadi will be sweet retribution. But after that, what? The BJP cannot form government on its own. Uddhav Thackeray is not going to shake hands. President’s Rule will likely make matters worse. Shiv Sena will get both sympathy and votes. The farmers are against Modi and there’s general disgruntlement against the BJP.
On another point, after all the hullabaloo since Param Bir’s eight-page email hit the fan, alleging that Deshmukh had asked Assistant Inspector Sachin Vaze to extort Rs 100 crore every month, the only people happy are those running the 1,750-odd bars and restaurants in Mumbai. Imagine Vaze sitting smug at bar counters counting the cash while eyeing Johnny Walker! Sachin Vaze, they say, is fond of breaking China!
So, what’s the score, the assessment and the implications? One dead, murdered, would be shortest yet not sweetest answer. Mansukh Hiren’s killing was not collatoral, it was deliberate, premeditated. Two alleged murderers are in custody, says the Maharashtra ATS. That spares Vaze the gallows, or does it? Like they say, it’s early days yet. The murder has moved to the back-burner. Extortion has hit centre-stage. And the terrorism charge is still hanging fire.
The BJP is still fighting to overthrow Uddhav Thackeray. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says Uddhav should resign. BJP’S new pal MNS wants the Modi Government to step in. Raj Thackeray says planting gelatine sticks is not “small matter.” Param Bir Singh will most likely soon be made to feel at home in the Home Guards. People get used to given lifestyles. The BJP, too, will get used to playing opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly. Sharad Pawar is adamant Anil Deshmukh will not resign, and that’s it. The MVA has to survive. (IPA Service)