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Further Embarrassment

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Though belatedly, the Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh did the right thing by resigning after the Bombay High Court’s order for a CBI inquiry into the allegations made by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. Deshmukh’s position had already become untenable and he was proving an embarrassment for his party, the NCP. NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar, skilled as he is, was having a hard time managing the fallout of the revelations.

However, if anyone is hoping for light to be shed speedily on the murky doings that have emerged from what is now being described as ‘Vazegate’, there is little chance of that. The CBI has for long been functioning on the basis of reputation, alone, its investigations have not speeded up the process of bringing wrong-doers to account for quite some time now. Most of the times cases are handed over to it much too late, when evidence has been tampered with and investigations badly botched by local agencies. When issues get too hot for states to handle, the buck is passed on to the CBI. It has a high conviction rate compared to other agencies, but mostly in run of the mill cases. The biggies continue to get away.

It is the political fallout of the scandal that will merit attention. If Anil Deshmukh was on the take as is alleged by the Police Commissioner, was he doing it only for himself, or his party, or the entire Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition? Has the ruling alliance granted autonomy to each component on harvesting the fruits of power? Can Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray afford to have such vast amounts collected by his allies without a percentage for himself and the Shiv Sena? Could Sharad Pawar be unaware of the doings of his close party confidante? Has it all been part of a design or the result of total incompetence on the Chief Minister’s part? Having grudgingly accepted the hijacking of the mandate given to the Shiv Sena, earlier, are the people of Maharashtra likely to take this in their stride? It must not be forgotten that the present contretemps follows on a series of events in which the ruling alliance had claimed a higher moral ground. These included its ‘outrage’ at the vilification of Bollywood and the targeting of individuals thought to be supporting the BJP and the Union Government. The people will want to know if the Chief Minister was in on it, or had been deceived, and exactly what he is going to do about it. The Home Minister’s resignation will certainly not suffice.