Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, tried to take the steam off the BJP’s tirade against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, by saying that from February 5 to 15, Deshmukh was in hospital with coronavirus and in home quarantine till February 27. “Anil Deshmukh was in hospital from February 5 to 15 and from February 15 to 27, he was in home isolation in Nagpur,” said Pawar, who has called for a probe into former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh's allegations. Citing Deshmukh’s Covid treatment ‘records’, Pawar said that Deshmukh could not have met Sachin Vaze between February 5 and February 15 as claimed in the letter.
Singh had alleged that suspended Mumbai cop Sachin Vaze, arrested by the National Investigation Agency, had met Deshmukh around this time.
“We will share all these records with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The question of resignation does not arise now,” Pawar said. He added that there was no pressure from the Sena for Deshmukh’s resignation and in the wake of documents in his possession, there was no question of Deshmukh’s resignation. He said it was the prerogative of Chief Minister Uddhav to order an inquiry into Singh’s allegations.
Further, Pawar claimed that Singh had written the letter to divert attention from the ongoing investigations into the bomb scare case and Mansukh Hiran death case. He strongly emphasised the need to focus on both these ongoing investigations.
Pawar hailed the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad for arresting two persons in connection with Hiran’s death.
This is the second time that Pawar has come out strongly in defence of Deshmukh. On March 21, Pawar had said that the allegations against Deshmukh were ‘serious’ but had questioned their timing.
BJP counters Pawar claim
When Pawar was addressing the press conference, the BJP released a video of Deshmukh's February 15 tweet, in which he had purportedly addressed a press conference.
“Sharad Pawarji said, from February 15 to 27, HM Anil Deshmukh was in home quarantine. But actually, with security guards in tow, he was seen addressing a press conference,” said BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis.
BJP leader Amit Malviya also pointed out that a scheduled meeting between a delegation of the Congress and Deshmukh that had taken place on February 8 and asked whether the party leaders met the home minister in the hospital.
However, Congress leader Sachin Sawant quickly clarified that the meeting had happened on Zoom, since Deshmukh was in home quarantine after recovering from Covid. He also quoted a tweet from February 7 to prove his statement.
The state BJP has demanded Deshmukh’s resignation in the light of the allegations levelled by Param Bir Singh and also called for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to investigate the Rs 100 crore claim. Deshmukh has refuted the allegations and accused Singh of attempting to save himself in the case.
HM releases video
Deshmukh also released a video statement claiming to have been hospitalised with Covid in Nagpur, challenging the BJP’s video. He told The Free Press Journal, “ I was hospitalised in Nagpur’s Alexis Hospital from February 5 to February 15. I met the press and mediapersons in the hospital premises after I was discharged. There was no formal press conference.”
He tweeted the video of his press briefing after being discharged from the hospital to counter the claim of his meeting with Vaze. He further said that from the hospital he had headed for Nagpur airport and after landing in Mumbai, had been home quarantined till February 27, when he tested negative for Covid.
Deshmukh said he had ventured out for the first time on February 28, attending the state cabinet meeting on the eve of the budget session. From March 1 to 10, he had attended the budget session of the state legislature, he said.