Maharashtra Interior Minister Anil Deshmukh, who is accused of corruption and whose resignation has been demanded by the opposition BJP, met with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday evening.
The meeting, which lasted for almost an hour, took place at Mr Thackeray’s official residence.
Earlier in the day, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad launched a scathing attack on Mr Deshmukh, accusing him of extorting money for police transfers to positions of power.
“The interior minister of Maharashtra is extorting money for transfers and posts. Whether the minister was taking money for himself, his party or his government is still unknown,” Mr Prasad said.
Mr Deshmukh has also been accused – by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh – of running a extortion racket with the help of several other police officers, including Sachin Waze, the officer arrested in the Mukesh Ambani bombing case.
They are suspected of being given a target of 100 Crore Rs per month.
Mr Deshmukh has so far been firmly defended by his party – the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is part of the ruling Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Regarding cash transfer claims, which is based on a report by IPS officer Rashmi Shukla, the party has said it is a “false claim”. The party said 80 per cent of those transfers had not yet taken place and that these were “false allegations … based on illegal telephone tapping”.
Regarding allegations of extortion, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday dismissed it. He said the allegations were made to divert attention from investigations into Mukesh Ambani security case.
NCP chief Jayant Patil said this week “there is no issue of Interior Minister resigning”.
Mr Pawar said Mr Deshmukh was recovering from a COVID-19 infection during the period he was alleged to have indulged in “extortion activities”. He said the Interior Minister was in hospital from 5 to 15 February and in solitary confinement in Nagpur from 15 to 27 February.
However the ‘alibi’ was questioned by the BJP after an airline ticket, which suggests Mr Deshmukh took a private jet from Nagpur to Mumbai on 15 February, started circulating online.
Mr Deshmukh later issued a video statement defending himself and insisting the fake news was spreading against him. He said he took a private jet to Mumbai after being discharged from hospital – he was being treated for COVID-19 – on 15 February.
The BJP – the opposition party in Maharashtra – has stepped in and is seeking Mr Deshmukh’s resignation.
The party’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya wrote on Twitter: “Sharad Pawar claims that Anil Deshmukh was in hospital from February 5-15 and in quarantine from February 16-27. But Anil Deshmukh was holding a press conference on February 15.” .! “
Former Maharashtra Prime Minister Devendra Fadnavis also made a swift move, suggesting veteran politician Sharad Pawar was inappropriately informed by his party.
The controversy erupted after Param Bir Singh was transferred from a senior Mumbai police post after “unforgivable” interruptions in the issue of Mukesh Ambani’s security intimidation.
Mr Singh, on Monday, moved the Supreme Court seeking an “impartial and fair” CBI investigation into Mr Deshmukh’s “various corruptive abuses”.