The political golmal going on in Mumbai reads like a tawdry, hastily written script of a C-grade 1970s’ Bollywood flop. It’s so embarrassingly gauche, one wonders if the main players even realise how clumsily they have cut off their own feet (and some other vital parts of their anatomy!). The bungling and subsequent coverup attempts -- in the incredible case of a gelatin-sticks laden car parked close to the most-discussed personal residence on earth (“Antilia”) has to be one of two things -- a publicity stunt that backfired, or an actual plot to assassinate the top industrialist in India, and one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Which one is it?
Let’s just call it a stunt, publicity or otherwise. Better still: a diversionary tactic. There’s too much at stake riding on Uddhav Thackeray hanging in there as Maharashtra’s CM, when there are enough rivals who want him out. The alliance has been tenuous from the word go. As the saying goes, where there is Pawar, there is threat. Sharad Pawar is the one politician in India who nobody has been able to take on so far. And that’s how it is in Mumbai now. A high-profile, super-flamboyant police commissioner (Parambir Singh) got kicked around like a football. But who is Ronaldo in this match? And the well-timed penalty kick was scored by whom? Which team? Why? Since there are no referees in this particular game, it’s a free for all, and it certainly looks like Devendra Fadnavis will show the “yellow card” to Thackeray, making it easy for the BJP to grab the vacated throne. To tide over this far-from-pretty mess, Sharad Pawar will smoothly broker whichever deal comes his way: with a caveat, of course. His party will hang on to the home ministry and control the cops -- rogue cops included. He who controls the Mumbai police controls the city. To make it look a little credible, Anil Deshmukh (home minister) may be given the heave-ho! It will be interesting to see how this imbroglio pans out. So many dirty secrets, so many skeletons in VVIP closets! And the cops have all the ammo to fix, silence anybody who crosses their path.
The brand-new top cop comes with his own dodgy personal history. I was reminded about it by concerned citizens after I tweeted approvingly about the appointment. Hemant Nagrale was the surprise choice, replacing the swashbuckling Parambir Singh, who rode into town like a cowboy from a bhelpuri Western, all guns blazing. Singh often referred to the trigger-happy, currently disgraced, API Sachin Vaze as his hand-picked protégé, who had “thoko-ed” over 60 bad guys! The encounter specialists (like Waze) are a feared lot, by those who have a lot to fear. They terrorise, intimidate and extort at will, are “criminals in uniform”, as legendary top cop Julio Ribeiro described them recently.
The new guy (Nagrale) has candidly admitted the police is going through a “very tough phase” and has promised to “regain the glory and pride of the Mumbai police”. Amen to that. His professional credentials are impressive -- recipient of the President’s Police Medal and other honours, he’s an avid golfer, tennis player with a judo black belt. But… how can one overlook the serious charges officially documented by his wife (2008), accusing him of physical and mental abuse? There is also a 2009 departmental inquiry ordered by the Bombay high court asking the ACB to investigate the disproportionate assets case based on a complaint by his wife.
Meanwhile, a sidelined cop -- the state’s seniormost IPS officer -- is ruffling far too many feathers, naming names, and being very vocal about the injustices he endured. Sanjay Pandey has found many takers and supporters, and he will get his due after these disclosures. His “shortcoming”? He’s upright and has refused to play ball with venal politicians. It’s a good thing he has chosen to go public with his grievances and embarrass the government. Wish there were more cops like this IIT Kanpur alumni, who hadn’t hesitated to take on the likes of Gopinath Munde in the past.
Devendra Fadnavis has hinted dark forces working behind the scenes; and he must know what he’s talking about! The nexus between cops and netas isn’t unique to Maharashtra: except that in Mumbai, this nexus bites back when situations get murky. A threat to blow up “Antilia” guarantees front-page news, especially if “detected” in time. If someone is really serious about carrying out such a dastardly crime, no prior warning is issued! Besides, the car with the explosives was parked more than 300 metres from “Antilia”: at best it would have blown up the shops and a portion of adjoining residential homes if activated. The motive remains fuzzy. The modus operandi, embarrassingly amateurish. The biggest tragedy here is the death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran, whose Scorpio was used by the mastermind behind the “Antilia” threat. Hiran’s body was found dumped in a nullah and attempts were made to call it a suicide. That was no suicide. Had his shocked and grief-stricken wife not named Sachin Waze as her husband’s murderer, even this cold-blooded killing would have been swiftly buried by the cops, supported by their political minders.
Fadnavis is on a roll – he’s likely to up the heat till he gets Uddhav into a corner. As he accurately stated, Parambir Singh is “small fry”. Fadnavis wants Singh’s political patrons exposed. But hey… between Singh and his henchman (Waze), they know one hell of a lot. This is the time for them to pull out all the ammo and bring a few folks down with deadly disclosures. Waze is likely to sing soon… unless… let me not even go there. Too many people have been “vanishing”, and as everybody knows, dead men tell no tales. By making all kinds of insinuations, Fadnavis is behaving like he’s holding the ultimate trump card in his hand. Maybe he is! More heads are expected to roll this week. And a few buried scandals may also get dug up in the bargain. It’s being whispered that Rhea Chakraborty’s life is going to get tougher. And the Sushant Singh Rajput case could be revisited too. If that happens, God knows what will come up? One more masala “Mumbai Saga”, this time with real-life villains, not Bollywood actors.
The heat in Mumbai is killing at the moment. One hears those poor penguins in the zoo are really suffering, especially the babies. Ice, Ice baby!...