The Hindu Profiles | On CPI (Maoist), Hamzah Bin-Hussein and Anil Deshmukh

Anil Deshmukh | Fall from the top

When Anil Deshmukh met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar offering his resignation following the Bombay High Court order for a preliminary probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against him, it was accepted in an instant without hesitation. But more than his exit, many believe, his appointment as Maharashtra’s Home Minister in 2019 was a bigger surprise.

Since becoming an MLA for the first time in 1995 till his first loss in 2014, Mr. Deshmukh, hailing from one of the strongest political families of Vidarbha, had always been a Minister. His feud with his cousin Ranjeet Deshmukh made sure that he did not join the Congress.

The 70-year-old Anil babu, as he is affectionately known in Nagpur, is now the NCP’s face in Vidarbha. Many were surprised by Mr. Pawar’s decision to pick him to handle Maharashtra’s Home Department when the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi government was sworn in. He was neither in the race for the job nor was seen as an important leader to lead the State’s police force. Among those who were discussed for the job were NCP state president Jayant Patil and senior leader Dilip Walse-Patil. As per local reports in 2019 from Mr. Deshmukh’s Assembly constituency Katol in Nagpur district, the NCP leader had second thoughts on contesting the Assembly election on NCP ticket. Prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, several Congress and NCP leaders had joined the BJP. Mr. Deshmukh was said to be among those interested to switch sides as Ashish Deshmukh, his nephew and political rival who had defeated him in the 2014 Assembly polls, rejoined the Congress from the BJP, leaving no winnable candidate for the saffron party. However, things did not go as planned for the BJP. Mr. Deshmukh filed his nomination at the last moment as the NCP candidate. With no strong candidate against him, he managed to reclaim his home-turf.

Mr. Deshmukh first won the Katol Assembly seat in 1995 as an Independent after the Congress declined him ticket. The then Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra survived on the support of Independents and Mr. Deshmukh was made Minister of State for Education.

NCP entry

In 1999, when Mr. Pawar floated the NCP, he joined the party. Since then, Mr. Deshmukh maintained his winning streak till 2014. Since 1995 to 2014, he worked under all Chief Ministers and handled departments such as Public Works, Excise, Food and Drug Administration, and Food and Civil Supplies.

Interestingly, in each of the department, he left his mark. For example, he was the Cabinet Minister of FDA when Maharashtra banned Gutkha, it was during his tenure as PWD Minister that much delayed Bandra-Worli sea link was completed and during his stint from 1995 to 1999, he was instrumental in starting Maharashtra Bhushan award and also regulated private coaching classes.

According to party insiders, one of the key reasons why he got the Home Minister’s job was his administrative experience and lack of political ambition. In his first year as Home Minister, Mr. Deshmukh walked a tight rope, especially with incidents such as the lynching of sadhus in Palghar district and the implementation of lockdown during the pandemic.

The year became eventful with high-profile cases such as the arrest of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the TRP scam case and finally the Antilia case where gelatine sticks were found near the house of industrialist Mukesh Ambani. And there were talks that Mr. Deshmukh was struggling to master control over the IPS lobbies within the police force. All hell broke loose when a letter-bomb was dropped by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, accusing the Home Minister of asking suspended assistant police inspector Sachin Waze to collect extortion money of ₹100 crore.

Mr. Pawar who chose him for the job held two press conferences in his defence, a rare gesture by the veteran politician. But the Supreme Court’s go-ahead to the CBI in this case cast a dark shadow on Mr. Deshmukh’s future in politics. The flamboyant politician who loves his caps is forced to go silent for now.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 2:04:49 PM |

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