An interesting yet disturbing trend has now emerged in Maharashtra politics. Leaders in high offices are absconding in large numbers to avoid facing jail by either Enforcement Directorate (ED) or Central Bureau of Investigation. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government led by Uddhav Thackeray has become a synonym for corruption and inefficiency. Its former Home Minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh has been absconding for many months now to avoid being arrested by ED. Mumbai Police Commissioner Paramvir Singh had accused Anil Deshmukh of being the key person behind Rs 100 crore per month extortion drive misusing the Mumbai Police Force. The interesting point is that Paramvir Singh made those allegations while still on the post of city top cop and Anil Deshmukh was still Home Minister then. The CBI is also chasing him.
The interesting thing is that Paramvir Singh himself is absconding to avoid his arrest by state police, as the MVA leaders have accused him of involvement in bribery. It is being suspected by ruling political leaders and a section of the media that Paramvir Singh may have fled the country using a fraudulent passport. Even the Mumbai Police which once was used to equate itself with Scotland Yard could not trace their former boss.
Missing Ex-Home Minister
This might be a unique case in the world where the Home Minister and his top cop both are absconding. The ED has issued several notices to former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to present himself before ED for enquiry. However, he never responded. Now ED has issued a Red Corner look out notice against him. There are serious allegations against him of collecting huge ransoms to the tune of Rs 100 crore per month from the hotels and bars of Mumbai. There are other serious allegations against him of huge transactions of money in exchange of favourable transfers in the police department. Then ADG Rashmi Shukla has made explosive remarks publicly claiming that she has official phone conversation records regarding this transfer scam.
Its very interesting that Rashmi Shukla had acquired phone tapping permissions regarding this police transfer racket, directly from CM. Many of Anil Deshmukh's close aides are already in ED's custody.
Another high profile absconder is Shiv Sena MP Shrimati Bhavana Gavali. Unfortunately, she is currently the senior most Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra. She represents Yavatmal-Washim Lok Sabha constituency. She is wanted in a money laundering case to the tune of hundreds of crores using a public trust named Mahila Vikas Pratisthan. Her close aide Saeed Khan is already in ED's custody. Saed Khan and Bhavna Gavali are also accused of illegally gaining control of this public trust by forging documents and using it as a private property. Bhavana Gavali is five timer MP, in Lok Sabha since 1999.
Using Health Problems to Hoodwink Govt
Another absconder is State’s Rural Development Minister Hasan Mushrif. He has been accused of money laundering scam amounting around Rs 144 crores. As ED booked a case against him and served notice, Hasan Mushrif got admitted to hospital citing health problems. BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya has accused him of another scam of Rs 100 crores.
The MVA Government tried to arrest Kirit Somaiyya instead of arresting their own Minister and prevented Kirit Somaiyya from visiting the police station to launch a formal complaint against Mushrif. He was also banned from visiting Kolhapur, Hasan Mushrif's home district. A high voltage drama took place around Kirit Somaiyya's residence as hundreds of police personnel laid siege around his house trying to prevent him from leaving home even for routine visits in Mumbai. But as police or state machinery had no legal papers to do so, Kirit Somaiyya anyhow left for Kolhapur. But the State Government immediately imposed a district ban against him. He was forcibly disembarked from the train at dawn 4.30 a.m. at Sangli and sent back to Mumbai.
The district ban was lifted after several days of protests by BJP. Eknath Khadase, former Revenue Minister, currently in NCP, is another high profile leader running from pillar to post to avoid arrest in a land scam case. He has been accused of illegal acquisition of Waqf land in Pune district, valued at more than hundred crores. He was neither given a clean chit nor the findings of the committee were made public. Now as ED started probing the case, he also took shelter from medical grounds to avoid arrest. His close aids have been already nabbed by ED.
Another high profile leader absconding is Shiv Sena former MP from Amaravati Anand Adsul who has been accused of misappropriation of funds of hundreds of crores of rupees belonging to the City Cooperative Bank. ED had nabbed him for enquiry but he got himself admitted to hhe hospital and later avoided arrest by switching towns and places.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Rathod who had to resign as Minister of Forests due to accusations of involvement in a 22-year-old girl's suicide, is another high profile ruling leader who has somehow managed to avoid arrest in the case. The case is still under investigation and he has been also accused of offering Rs five crore to the girl's family and a job to her brother to clear his name from the case.
Thackeray’s Aide On the Run
One more close aide of Uddhav Thackeray, who is running away from ED, is Thane Majiwada MLA Pratap Sarnaik. He has been accused by ED of money laundering amounting to around Rs 300 crore through various means.
Overall, Maharashtra's MVA Government led by Thackeray has become a government of absconders. Never before in the state's history, so many ministers and leaders have absconded at same time. Already the Thackeray Government has earned a bad name as “Sthagiti Sarkar” –a government that puts a stay on each and every development project started by erstwhile Fadanvis Government including Metro rail projects in Mumbai and other cities, highway projects all over the state and bullet train project between Mumbai and Karnavati (Ahmadabad) in Gujarat. Their fist move when came to power was to dismantle the highly ambitious Maharashtra International Board – a high school education board set up by Fadanvis Government to improve the standard of education in the state.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Dada Patil told Organiser that, "The situation is grim in the State with so many ministers and ruling leaders are absconding. The common man is shaken to the heel watching the guardians of the law absconding one by one fearing the same law they were supposed to protect. Its very scary to watch the Home Minister and his top cop, whose primary responsibility is to enforce the law and maintain the law and order in the state, both abscond at same time to avoid legal action. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar's Jarandeshwar Sugar Mill is already attached for being involved in the tax evasion and money laundering scams. Thus one fourth of the council of ministers are already being investigated and many more are under law enforcement agencies' radar. Some more might get arrested soon in various scams.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya, while speaking to the Organiser, said, “It's shocking surprise that Thackeray Sarkar's Ghotalebaj Leaders running away to face Investigation. Either they are gayab or get admitted to the hospital. Anil Deshmukh, Bhavna Gavli, Pratap Sarnaik, Anandrao Adsul, Hasan Mushrif….”