Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s brusque refusal today to either confirm or deny a reported meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in Ahmedabad could fuel further uncertainty in Maharashtra’s ruling coalition, already singed in the aftermath of the Mukesh Ambani bomb-scare case. It came on a day that the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna published a stinging editorial piece, targeting, among others, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of the NCP for his alleged ties to Mumbai cop Sachin Waze, arrested in the Ambani case.
Speaking to the media today in New Delhi, Mr Shah was asked about his reported meeting with Mr Pawar and the NCP’s Praful Patel in Ahmedabad yesterday.
“Everything need not be made public,” Mr Shah responded before quickly moving on to other matters. There is still no official confirmation or denial of the meeting from either the BJP or the NCP or any of their leaders.
Reports of such a meeting come amid the crisis in Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, composed of the Congress, the Shiv Sena, and NCP.
The discovery of the explosive-laden car last month in the same Mumbai locality where Mr Ambani’s residence is situated set off multiple probes. Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, replaced in the wake of the case’s alleged mishandling, later accused state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of asking the force to collect Rs 100 crore every month as extortion, with Mumbai cop Sachin Waze as the lynchpin of his alleged racket.
Mr Waze is now under arrest for his alleged role in planting the car on the city’s Carmichael Road. He is a Shiv Sena member and was reinstated into the police force reportedly at Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s behest.
All these developments had seemingly set off a rift between the Sena and the NCP. And then came along today’s Saamna editorial, in which its Executive Editor Sanjay Raut alleged that Mr Deshmukh was not the NCP’s first choice as Home Minister.
“Deshmukh got the Home Minister’s post by accident. Jayant Patil and Dilip Valse-Patil had refused it. It is only then that Sharad Pawar handed over this post to Deshmukh. This post has dignity and status,” the article said.
“No individual can function as Maharashtra Home Minister remaining close to dubious characters…If a junior officer like Sachin Waze was running a (money) collection racket from the Mumbai police commissioner’s office, why was the Home Minister not aware of it?” it said.
It also criticised the government for not being able to initiate damage control following the former Mumbai Commissioner’s allegations.
The NCP’s Ajit Pawar, the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, responded saying no one should play spoilsport in a coalition government. “The allotment of cabinet berths is the prerogative of head of every political party (in the coalition). No one should play spoilsport when the three-party government is functioning properly,” he said.
The BJP, meanwhile, called the Saamna article “nautanki” or drama. “I’d like to remind Sanjay Raut that Sachin Waze was reinstated by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray,” the party’s Maharashtra Vice-President, Kirit Somaiya, said in a video message.