By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, (IANS) “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: email@example.com)
By Quaid Najmi