In a massive fallout of the SUV case, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday shunted out Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh and replaced him with current Director General of Police Hemant Nagrale, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh announced.
Senior IPS officer Rajnish Sheth has been entrusted additional responsibility as the DGP, while Singh will be posted as DGP, Home Guards.
Shortly after taking over, Nagrale said it would be inappropriate to comment on the "under investigations cases" but assured that he would make all efforts to improve the image of the Mumbai Police.
"The Police Department is passing through a rough phase. It is not proper if policemen are involved in criminal acts. In future, we shall ensure such things don't recur. The NIA and ATS are investigating, so I cannot comment on the cases," he added.
The fast-paced developments came after an internal tug-of-war among the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi constituents - the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress - in the past two weeks after a SUV was found abandoned outside Antilia, the home of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, on February 25.
The situation turned grim with the subsequent death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran on March 5, the arrest and suspension of Mumbai Police official Sachin Vaze and a belligerent Bharatiya Janata Party clamouring for the scalp of Singh and others.
According to political sources, while Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar (NCP) wanted to wait for the ATS probe report, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was keen on effecting a major shake-up in the police force after the two cases became a major embarrassment for the state government.
Even as Mumbai Police was probing the matter, the Centre stepped in and abruptly handed over the SUV case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), while the Hiran death is being probed by Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS).
Since both the cases are directly linked with wider ramifications, the NIA is likely to also take over the Hiran death matter from the ATS, official sources revealed.
Late on Tuesday, the NIA seized a black Mercedes car which it said was used by Vaze, along with Rs 5 lakh case, a currency counter, some clothes and other things in the vehicles.
Not satisfied with the transfer of the Mumbai Police chief, BJP's Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, ex-city MP Kirit Somaiya and others said Singh and Vaze are "very small fry" and suggest that the "bigger political players" allegedly involved in the entire episode must be identified and exposed.
Referring to Fadnavis' revelations on Hiran case in New Delhi this evening, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant took a swipe at the BJP leader, saying "it conveys an impression that he (Fadnavis) was personally present at the crime scene and knows more about the cases than the NIA or ATS".
"At this rate, he should be made the head of NIA and help unravel the mystery cases like the Pulwama attacks, how the huge quantity of RDX was brought there... He can even set up his own investigation agency and help serve the country," Sawant said sarcastically.
He also slammed Fadnavis for not handing over the CDR and other information to the investigators and accused him of "backing the culprits" in these cases.
Earlier on Wednesday, attempting damage control, the MVA Coordination Committee met followed by a meeting between Thackeray and leaders of the three ruling parties.
Prior to that, late on Tuesday, Thackeray called both Singh and Nagrale and discussed the cases with them threadbare before effecting the anticipated changes in the police force.