Minister should go

State government must clean up mess in Mumbai Police. For process to be credible, it needs a new Home Minister.

The revelation that Sachin Waze, a controversial Mumbai police officer, reinstated in the force in violation of a high court order and entrusted with high-profile investigations, was allegedly behind a security scare near the home of the country’s top industrialist was shocking enough. Now, the allegations by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, that Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh allegedly set Waze a target of Rs 100 crore a month, to be collected from bars, restaurants and other unspecified sources in the city, have grievously undermined the credibility of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government vis a vis a crucial pillar of governance — law and order and policing. At no stage in this nearly month-old saga have the Mumbai Police or the Uddhav Thackeray government given any indication that they are in control. Instead, each sordid revelation — by a clearly divided and partisan police force — has chipped away at public confidence in the functioning of a vital arm of government in the country’s financial capital. For sure, the corrupt politician-policeman nexus is not new. But the ongoing drama is unprecedented.

This is not the first time in the 16 months since the MVA coalition took office that Mumbai Police has been the cause of friction in the ruling alliance. In the division of portfolios between the three allies, the NCP took the home department — the Mumbai Police commissionerate is under the department’s direct supervision. Last July, a serious rift developed between two of the ruling alliance partners, Shiv Sena and NCP, over a reshuffle of deputy commissioner-level police officers within the city, approved by the home department but apparently unacceptable to the Shiv Sena. It needed a meeting between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar for the matter to be resolved. Later, Subodh Jaiswal, then DGP of Maharashtra, stalled the transfers of police officers across the state, because he believed they had “lobbied” politicians for these transfers. The MVA also came together in its defence of Mumbai Police over several high-profile investigations that turned into political causes celebres — the Sushant Singh Rajput case, the spat with actor Kangana Ranaut, the TRP case — with BJP determined to use these to trip up the ruling coalition. The larger political battle for survival apparently seems to have clouded judgement within the government.

For the MVA government to win back public confidence on law and order, it must first ask Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to step down in light of the serious charges against him. This is not the time for the Shiv Sena and NCP to pass the parcel to each other. The former Mumbai Police Commissioner must answer why he brought Waze back into the force, and entrusted him with all the big cases, if he knew what the officer was doing right under his nose. If he didn’t know it, the question is why not. It is also: Why did he wait this long to raise the matter of Deshmukh’s alleged demands on officers to collect money for him? As for Deshmukh, he needs to step aside for any probe to be seen as credible and trustworthy.

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