Rampant corruption is part of politics in Maharashtra

By Vijay Badhwar

Vasooligate in Maharashtra – blatantly practised corruption allegedly infecting the whole chain of government from lowly police to the top ministers – claimed its first high profile victim, none less than the State Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh.

Not that he went gracefully. Denying any wrongdoing and defended by his Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after the demoted Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh alleged that the Home Minister had asked a junior assistant police inspector to collect 100 Crore every month from hotel clubs and bars and whatever other means. As Deshmukh tendered his resignation on April 5 after the High Court ordered a CBI investigation, he wrote that it was ethical for him to step down while the enquiry was underway.

Sachin Vaze, the assistant police inspector central to the imbroglio leading to the political avalanche that now threatens the whole of Maharashtra Government, had run amuck since he was reinstated to the post after 10-12 years in hibernation at the recommendation of the Home Minister on a lame pretext that COVID-19 had created shortage of police officers. He has been a Shiv Sena member earlier removed from his duties in police as recommended by court as he was found complicit in the death of a person in police custody.

Sachin Vaze, a junior officer made in-charge of the important crime branch, had grown too big for his boots, allegedly involved in scores of fake encounters, threatening and intimidating people for ransom. He was directly in contact with the Home Minister, as alleged by the former Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, and took instructions from him.

Overconfidence and being a daredevil upended his riotous run as now he had threatened the richest and probably the most influential businessman in India, Mukesh Ambani, by parking a car loaded with gelignite sticks outside his residence. He had, indeed, crossed the Laxman Rekha (Holy Grail) this time inviting the ire of the industrialist and hence the whole BJP political machinery, who, already, were looking to settle scores with Shiv Sena in power in Maharashtra.

Centre’s peak terrorist investigating agency, National Investigating Agency (NIA), was soon in action rounding up Sachin Vaze and his gang of four, chasing the fleet of luxury cars – two Mercedes and an Innova among others – which his dealer friend Mansukh Hiren provided. He was found murdered with handkerchiefs stuffed in his mouth that Vaze initially called a suicide until camera footage collected by NIA proved otherwise.

Vaze should have been aware of Ambani might that Australian writer Hamish McDonald describes in his book, Mahabharata in Polyester. In an anecdote in the book, he describes the feud between Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel who won the Gujarat election in March 1995 and Shankersinh Waghela who he backed.

“National BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was appalled to find Dhirubhai on the telephone putting forward a solution to the Gujarat crisis: Waghela should be made deputy Chief Minister. Highly embarrassed, Vajpayee refused,” Hamish McDonald writes. A year later, Waghela was able to oust Patel with Congress backing and he became Chief Minister as Dhirubhai had wanted.

Corruption in Australian context, although not commonplace, is abound as described by John Silvester in his article in News Review section of the weekend Sydney Morning Herald, ”˜Sex, thugs and cops on the roll in Mr Sin’s city’. Abe Saffron, he writes, built a vice empire and paid bribes to police – $750 per club for local police and $5000 a week for senior police – and was so brazen that he repeatedly visited the bent Deputy Commissioner Bill Allen at police headquarters, similar to what Vaze was allegedly doing with the Maharashtra Home Minister.

The police officer has been very much in the Indian news in the background of several suicides, including one of actor Sushant Rajput and the dramatic dragging to take in police custody popular news editor, Arnab Goswami.

The saga does not end here. It may yet take a heavy toll on incumbent Maharashtra Aghadi Government.

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