Amid rising attacks from the BJP and pressure from its ruling partners, the NCP and the Congress, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government on Wednesday, in a major reshuffle, shunted out Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, replacing him with Hemant Nagrale, who was the acting director general of police (DGP). Singh will now be director of the low-profile Home Guards.
Singh’s transfer came days after the state government faced a fusillade for its mishandling of the Antilla bomb scare case and also for shielding the controversial police officer Sachin Vaze, who has been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the matter.
Anti-Corruption Bureau Director Rajnish Seth has been given additional charge as Maharashtra DGP, while Sanjay Pandey will be the new director of the Maharashtra State Security Corporation. The reshuffle was announced by the Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
Singh’s removal was merely a formality as the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi members were unanimous on this issue, to avert further denting of the state government’s image.
“Singh seems to be in the know of the bomb scare or Sachin Vaze’s alleged involvement in placing the Innova near gelatin sticks-laden Scorpio outside the Ambani residence. Further, what has gone against Singh is that despite Vaze’s alleged extortion and his use of various cars with different numbers, he did not initiate any action. This was all happening when Singh was there and his continuation would not only have created problems for the city police force but also for the state government a senior MVA minister revealed to The Free Press Journal.
The decision to transfer Singh was taken after a series of meetings. On Monday, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, the architect of the MVA government, at an hour-long meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, made a strong case for Singh’s immediate removal, citing that he could not pose himself as bigger that the government.
On Tuesday, Thackeray met the ruling partners represented by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil (NCP) and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat (Congress). They reached an understanding that Singh should be transferred at the earliest, to repulse the BJP attack that the government was shielding him. The ruling partners also expressed serious concerns over the serious lapses in handling the bomb scare and the Hiran death case by Singh and his team.
Thereafter, Thackeray held a marathon meeting with Deshmukh, Nagrale and Singh late on Tuesday night, wherein he reviewed the turn of events and arrived at the conclusion that Singh had to be moved out.
Singh’s transfer comes a day after the NIA team recovered some ‘incriminating’ documents and electronic evidence such as a laptop, iPad and mobile phones from Vaze's office. A black Mercedes car, being used by Vaze, was also seized from a parking lot near the CSMT station, and Rs 5 lakh in cash, a note-counting machine, two number plates and some clothes were recovered from it.
Singh had recently, hogged the limelight as he spearheaded the probe in the alleged TRP scam, where households were apparently asked to keep channels switched on the entire day. At least five news and entertainment channels were found allegedly involved in rigging the Television Rating Points (TRP) to attract more advertisements.
In 2005, Singh had landed in a controversy for ‘falsely framing’ the co-owner of Provogue, Salil Chaturvedi, in a drug case. Singh was the ADG (law & order) during the arrests of nine activists by Pune Police in connection with the Elgar Parishad case. He had also overseen the arrest of BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur in connection with the Malegaon 2008 blast case.