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  • Published 13.09.00
New Delhi, Sept. 13 :    New Delhi, Sept. 13:  A criminal has taken on the nation's home minister. Lal Krishna Advani is baffled by an imposter who has been merrily going around the country defrauding people by posing as his son-in-law. That, too, when his daughter is separated and living with him. Mahesh Tanna, who has sundry cases of fraud and cheating against him in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Thane, has fooled many gullible people into loosening their purse strings by bragging he can fix anything as the home minister's son-in-law. The 38-year-old imposter was arrested in Mumbai today. A resident of Jyotsna Nivas at Kalva in Thane, Mahesh went to St John Baptist School and dropped out after his higher secondary. According to police files, Mahesh married one Reshma, an adopted daughter of Dharam Advani who, he says, is the home minister's younger brother. Dharam passed away in 1997. Reshma left Mahesh in 1994. Sources close to the home minister said he never had any brother. He has a sister who lives in Mumbai. His immediate family comprises his wife, son Jayant and daughter Pratibha. Sources close to Advani said the home minister was incensed by Mahesh's fraudulent activities. First, because his family was "getting a bad name" and second, innocent people were being cheated. Around 1982, Mahesh tried his luck in Hindi films but came a cropper. In 1986, he started dealing in used cars at Lokhandwala complex in Mumbai's Andheri suburb. Seven years later, he came in contact with a Delhi-based car dealer who apparently initiated him into stealing and disposing off stolen vehicles. Mahesh appears to have hit upon the brilliant idea of making easy money by posing as Advani's son-in-law around the time the BJP government came to power in 1998. He would pose as Advani's damaad and approach people by saying he could solve their problems because of his "proximity" to North Block. One of the first cases of impersonation against Mahesh was registered in May 1999 at Ahmedabad. On May 19 that year, Mahesh checked into the government circuit house in the morning, posing, of course, as Advani's son-in-law. The circuit house staff, who smelt a rat, began inquiries and found the claim to be bogus. When Mahesh returned to the circuit house in a siren-wailing car fitted with a beacon light used by VIPs, the police were waiting for him. But that did not deter him. In January 2000, Mahesh was arrested in Delhi on a complaint filed by Energy India chairman S.A. Rizvi, a resident of Chittaranjan Park. Mahesh had approached Rizvi and boasted he could get any work done and demanded Rs 5 lakh for services to be rendered. Rizvi got a rude shock when he checked with the home minister's residence on whether the "appointment through Mahesh" was still on. Mahesh was arrested around the third week of January. His bail petition was initially rejected but he later managed to get himself released. The trial is on. Mahesh has against him eight pending criminal cases in Mumbai (Oshivra police station), as many as 23 cases at various police stations in Delhi, including Tughlaq Road, Vasant Vihar, Chittaranjan Park, Parliament Street, Greater Kailash and Lajpat Nagar. The Telegraph has in its possession a report of deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi district) Pranab Nanda which lays out in detail Mahesh's "criminal career". He has been interrogated by the Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police special branch, but they haven't found any insurgent or terrorist angle to his activities. Some reports reaching North Block suggest that Mahesh enjoys the patronage of a minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet. Inquiries have revealed a larger nexus between a section of Mumbai-based politicians and cheats like Mahesh. "We are trying to find out the depth of this nexus and how it impinges on internal security," a senior home ministry official said. "There is more to it than meets the eye," he added.