Amid allegations of corruption being levelled against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, state Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and NCP's state unit president Jayant Patil are scheduled to meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar in Delhi on Sunday.
However, Patil has said that the meeting was planned three days ago and it is aimed at discussing issues related to the Pandharpur Assembly by-poll scheduled for next month.
Deshmukh is a member of the Nationalist Congress Party.
Param Bir Singh, in his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday, alleged that Anil Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect Rs 100 crore every month from bars and hotels, a charge the minister has denied.
Following the arrest of Mumbai police officer Sachin Vaze in the case of the explosive-laden car found outside Mukesh Ambani's house in Mumbai, Singh was transferred to the low-key Home Guards. Singh claimed that he was made a scapegoat.
In an eight-page letter written to Chief Minister Thackeray, Singh alleged that Deshmukh used to call police officers to his official residence and give them a "collection target" from bars, restaurants, and other establishments.
He wrote, “The Hon’ble Home Minister expressed to Shri Vaze that he had a target to accumulate Rs. 100 crores a month. For achieving the aforesaid target, the Hon’ble Home Minsiter told Shri Vaze that there are about 1,750 bars, restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai and if a sum of Rs. 2-3 lakhs each was collected from each of 3 them, a monthly collection of Rs. 40-50 crores was achievable”.
The minister rejected Singh's allegations, claiming that the former Mumbai police chief was trying to save himself from further action with false claims.
In a statement made on Saturday evening, the state home minister said, "The allegations made by Singh are false and I am filing a case of defamation against him".
"Sensing trouble in the explosives case, Singh has leveled baseless allegations to blackmail the government. This is a conspiracy by Singh to mislead the probe into the explosives and Mansukh Hiran death cases," the minister added.
Earlier, Deshmukh had said he was transferred after some of his colleagues committed "serious and unforgivable mistakes".
BJP leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis sought Deshmukh's resignation over the claims made by the IPS officer.
"We demand the home minister's resignation. If he doesn't, then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray must remove him. An impartial probe must be conducted. The letter also says the chief minister was informed about this earlier, so why didn't he act on it?" Fadnavis, Leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, told reporters.
Talking to PTI, Jayant Patil, who is also the state Water Resources Minister, said that the Delhi visit was planned three days ago.
"The Pandharpur Assembly bypoll is scheduled next month. Ajit dada and I decided to meet party workers in Solapur district to know their views over the selection of candidate and the party strategy, and then meet Pawar saheb in Delhi with the feedback before returning to Mumbai," he said.
"Accordingly, both of us are in Pandharpur to discuss issues related to the bypoll with party workers. We will then go to Delhi (to meet Pawar)," he said.
The Pandharpur bypoll is scheduled to be held on April 17. It was necessitated due to the death of NCP MLA Bharat Bhalke last year.
(With inputs from PTI)