A day after the purported owner of the vehicle with explosives parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house was found dead, the opposition BJP said on Saturday that it appeared to be a murder and questioned the investigation by police.
Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut said the Sena-led Maharashtra government should not be put in the dock over the death of a prime witness, but finding out the truth was imporant for the coalition government’s image.
Mansukh Hiren (46), who the police had said was the owner of the stolen Scorpio with gelatin sticks parked near Ambani’s residence in south Mumbai on February 25, was found dead in a creek in neighbouring Thane on Friday morning.
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who belongs to the NCP, announced transfer of the probe to the Anti-Terrorism Squad on the same evening. He also said Hiren was not the owner of the SUV but was in its possession for carrying out some interior work.
“It is wrong to politicise this death and put the government in the dock. There are doubts whether Mansukh Hiren’s death was a suicide or murder. He was an important witness in the case,” Raut said here.
“The home department should unearth the truth at the earliest. It is important for the prestige and image of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government,” he said.
On the transfer of the probe from the Mumbai crime branch to the ATS, the Sena leader said the BJP wanted the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe it, but it would not guarantee that the case would be solved immediately.
“The home minister has handed over the case to the ATS, which is capable of solving it. Let us have faith in it,” Raut said.
State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, on the other hand, questioned the “seriousness of the probe”.
“Prima facie he was murdered. But I have my doubts about the seriousness of the investigation,” Patil told reporters.
He also accused the state government of “promoting criminalisation of politics”.
“In less than two years, several ministers have faced serious allegations but none of them stepped down, except the recent resignation of forest minister,” he said.
Forest minister Sanjay Rathod resigned earlier this month after his name was linked to the death of a young woman in Pune.
“It gives an assurance to criminals that they can join politics and get protected. The BJP protested strongly due to which the MVA government was forced to accept Rathod’s resignation,” Patil said.
Ashish Shelar, another BJP leader, questioned the presence of an “encounter specialist” police officer at Hiren’s autopsy.
“His presence is suspicious as he is neither part of Thane police nor the ATS. It gives impression that there is something this government wants to hide,” he said.
Shelar also asked what prompted the home minister to hand over the probe to the ATS shortly after praising the job done by the Mumbai crime branch and Thane police.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Sandeep Deshpande demanded inquiry by a sitting judge.
As per police, Hiren, who was in vehicle spare parts business, went missing after leaving his shop in Thane around 8.30 pm on Thursday.
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