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Sameer Wankhede: NCB scarecrow cooks up Bollywood’s “shraadh”

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 “Lights, Cameras… Raid…!” When the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede planned a rave party raid aboard the Cordelia Cruise luxury ship, one thing was guaranteed — tonnes of publicity, even if the actual drug recovery maybe a few tolas.

For, among those present on the ship on October 2 was Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan and producer Gauri, besides a few others from the glam-entertainment world.

Truly, a ‘heady’ ambience for the NCB’s high-profile operation, a first-ever on a luxury cruiser in India, and he effected a big haul of big names, but barely any worthwhile quantity of drugs.

Amid a national furore and international attention, Wankhede zoomed around to catch a total of 20 alleged junkies by their collars and dumping them in the lockup, all the while basking in the reflected glory.

In the past over a year since Wankhede, 42, (IRS 2008), was deputed to the IPS-dominated NCB for the late Sushant Singh Rajput death probe — he jumped head-first with surgical strikes to “uproot the drug citadel in Bollywood and Mumbai”.

Many well-known names like Arjun Rampal, Rhea Chakravorty, Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, Rakul Preet Singh, Sara Ali Khan, comedy couple Bharti Singh and Harsh Limbachiya, Armaan Kohli and the latest, Aryan Khan, were trapped in his net, and at one point he even went tantalisingly close to the Karan Johar’s ‘girebaan’ (collar).

Earlier, during his stint at the Mumbai Airport Customs, Wankhede dabbled in his favourite glamour game — cornering/detaining people like Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif, Ranbir Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Mika Singh, Minisha Lamba, Vivek Oberoi, Ram Gopal Verma, etc., and once even the 2011 World Cup Cricket Trophy made of gold-silver, which was ‘released’ after the BCCI coughed out the customs duty!

A far cry from the days when the NCB was a ghost, its name rarely heard in public — like the 2001 arrest of actor Fardeen Khan — compared with the daily parade of a charade now, akin to a ‘saas-bahu serial’.

If Wankhede was hoping for a pat or promotion, there was some disappointment — this time suddenly chinks were exposed both in the anti-drug actions and intentions, the NCB’s reputation in tatters — and the hunter became the hunted.

The name dreaded by Bollywood suddenly came under intense scrutiny as the Nationalist Congress Party Minister Nawab Malik single-handedly snooped on the super-sleuth — to hammer hollow the NCB’s credibility.

Like a thirsty bloodhound, the bearded, bespectacled Malik coolly launched a serial expose to prove Wankhede’s actions as ‘farjical’ (fraudulent) strikes — unearthing Bharatiya Janata Party-linked ‘independent witnesses’, his unsavoury friends, a wanted-nabbed criminal, alleged fake caste certificate, religious credentials, etc., that rattled the officer.

As Aryan Khan remained in a vice-like grip for 29 nights, Wankhede spent sleepless nights, ran from one NCB probe to another, knocked the doors of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the DGP Sanjay Pandey, Mumbai CoP Hemant Nagrale, the NCSC, the Special NDPS Court and the Bombay High Court.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi government has cried foul at Wankhede’s unceremonial attempts to perform Bollywood’s last rites and exorcise it’s spirit to other glamour-parched locales like Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh.

Some politicians like Shiv Sena’s Kishore Tiwari have accused him of a ‘danga’ targeting film personalities to help perch his wife Kranti Redkar-Wankhede — a Marathi actress — as Bollywood barely beckons.

There are other dubious firsts — how crucial ‘witnesses’ are bared in public glare which can seriously hamper the NCB’s usually covert and sensitive operations with global ramifications henceforth, the unprecedented witness allegations of extortion bids with Wankhede’s name tossed, or the accusations and probes he faces now from various quarters.

As is common knowledge, the real ‘drug bunkers’ are not in Bollywood, but on the outskirts of Mumbai and the NCB’s overzealous James Bonds could take up the tough challenge instead of ‘boo-ing’ soft targets in the glamour-industry.

A grim Malik has warned of more aces up his ‘kurta’ sleeve, vowing that “picture abhi baaki hai”, will end only after Wankhede’s sack and jail.

With many BJP leaders openly supporting him, only time will tell if Wankhede is a political puppet or a pure patriot.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

Maharashtra

Suspicious speed-boat found in Raigad, ATS to probe

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Raigad-ATS

 A suspicious speed-boat was found on the Harihareshwar Beach in Raigad, around 200 kms south of Mumbai, sending the security forces into a tizzy here on Thursday afternoon.

According to local police officials, the boat is apparently of foreign origin and there are some dismantled weapons found on board.

The state government, police and other agencies have taken serious note of the speed-boat with a red alert sounded in the entire district.

A team of Anti-Terrorist Squad is rushing to the site to probe the speedboat, suspected to have strayed in the rough Arabian Sea waves to beach at Harihareshwar.

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Maharashtra

Dahi-Handi politics: BJP pokes Shiv Sena in Aditya Thackeray’s bastion

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Apparently needling the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party will hold its ‘dahi-handi’ celebrations at the Jambori Maidan in Worli on Friday, which is a Sena stronghold and also the Assembly constituency of the Yuva Sena chief, Aditya Thackeray.

Driven out of Jambori Maidan this year, now the Sena plans to hold its revelries at Worli Naka — with an undeclared competition on who will make it a bigger affair — likely to be witnessed on Friday.

Former Nationalist Congress Party leader Sachin Ahir, who joined the Shiv Sena in 2019, used to regularly organise the dahi-handi at Jambori Maidan, which was ranked among the biggest events during the festival in Mumbai.

Mumbai BJP President Ashish Shelar on Thursday took a swipe at the Sena, saying “despite having an MP, MLA, ex-Minister, ex-Mayor and several municipal corporators, the party is struggling to get ‘loyalty affidavits’ on Rs 100 stamp-paper”.

“They got elected on our strength and then claimed it as their ‘bastion’. The pyramid of those who betrayed the ‘saffron’ has started crumbling, they are now rattled and their tiers will collapse in Worli,” said Shelar sarcastically, targeting its former ally.

Hitting back, Ahir said if they (Shelar & BJP) are so obsessed with Worli, then he should change the constituency and contest from Worli, and the people here will show them their level in the elections.

Aditya Thackeray said Worli has suddenly become the beloved of the BJP and they are welcome to organise their celebrations, but the people of the constituency know ‘the traitors’ and will teach them a lesson soon.

After Ahira’s NGO Sankalp Pratisthan stopped organising dahi-handi at Jamboree Maidan in 2015, Sena MLA Sunil Shinde took over in 2019, but this year the BJP beat it in securing permission for the ground.

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Maharashtra

Shiv Sena MP wants Centre to bring back Netaji’s remains

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Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi has written a letter to the Centre to bring back the remains of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

In her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said: “As we celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ and pledge to take pride in our heritage as a part of the ‘Panchpran’, I am writing this letter to you in support of the request of Ms. Anita Bose Pfaff, daughter of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, to bring his last remains back to India.

“It shall be our greatest honour to commemorate Netaji’s sacrifice and dedication towards independence of India by fulfilling his last wish of returning to the Indian soil.

“I request you to make a note of the request of Ms. Anita Bose Pfaff and expeditiously take all such diplomatic and other measures to bring Netaji home and duly acknowledge his insurmountable contributions in India’s freedom. struggle. This shall indeed be a true tribute to our forefathers who sacrificed their lives for India’s freedom.”

As per the National Archives, Netaji’s remains are kept at the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo.

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