NCP leader Jitendra Awhad submits resignation amid storm after molestation case, party chief Sharad Pawar to take final call

Mr Awhad’s move shocked the party as senior leaders including state party chief Mr Jayant Patil, leader of opposition Mr Ajit Pawar and party MP Ms Supriya Sule rallied behind him with an appeal not to resign.

Sanjay JogUpdated: Tuesday, November 15, 2022, 08:02 AM IST
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Minister Jitendra Awhad | ANI

Mumbai: Amid major controversy over registration of a molestation offence, the NCP legislator from Mumbra-Kalwa and former minister Mr Jitendra Awhad MLA submitted his resignation on Monday to state party chief Mr Jayant Patil.

The final decision will be taken by the party chief Mr Sharad Pawar soon. Mr Awhad’s move shocked the party as senior leaders including state party chief Mr Jayant Patil, leader of opposition Mr Ajit Pawar and party MP Ms Supriya Sule rallied behind him with an appeal not to resign. NCP leaders slammed the Shinde Fadnavis government for silencing the opposition with the use of power. A video of the incident in question has gone viral on social media as several political leaders and advocates shared their opinion on it. 

The molestation case by Rida Rashid

Ms Rida Rashid, a BJP office bearer from Mumbai, has filed an FIR (First Information Report) against Awhad alleging that he molested her after a function in Kalwa on the outskirts of Thane on Sunday night. In her complaint, Rashid has stated that Awhad held her shoulders and pushed her into a crowd of people when she was trying to approach Chief Minister Mr Eknath Shinde with a memorandum.

A case registered under the Indian Penal Code Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) has been registered as he allegedly pushed her during a public event at the opening of a bridge in Mumbra on November 13. Ms Rashid demanded the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission should take action against Mr Awhad. 

Mr Awhad, who is on bail after his arrest last week for disrupting a show of Marathi film 'Har Har Mahadev' in Thane, rejected these allegations and on Monday morning tweeted that after “two false cases against me in 72 hours. I have decided to resign as an MLA ''.  

Awhad alleges 'Murder of democracy'

‘’I will fight against this police brutality. I cannot simply watch this murder of democracy,” he said. Mr Awhad, whose resignation letter addressed to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker is available on social media, said, "I am disturbed by the allegations of molestation and cannot accept this. This will damage my image in society."

‘’I will accept all the crimes under sections 307, 323, 323. But, the offense of molestation like 354 is invalid, which I have never committed in my life. How did the police register this crime? The words used by the woman in the FIR are clearly heard in the video. It can be a part of the conspiracy to file a case in a way that my image is put down in the society,’’ he claimed.

Mr Awhad’s decision forced the state chief Mr Jayant Patil to rush to his Thane residence from Sangli and address a joint press conference. Mr Patil condemned and claimed that the police have been acting on someone’s orders. He claimed that the case is a conspiracy by the ruling Shinde Fadnavis government to malign the senior NCP leader's image. Patil said, "I am sure Awhad will get justice. This is the attempt of the ruling parties to bring NCP MLAs into trouble as they may be an obstacle to them." 

The leader of opposition Mr Ajit Pawar claimed it will be dangerous for democracy to trap someone without any mistake and malign their image among people. ‘’If the government is suppressing the opposition voice in such a manner it is quite shameful. There is a conspiracy as the woman has been compelled to register a case,’’ he alleged. 

On the other hand, Ms Sule said, ‘’The politics in Maharashtra has stooped to such a low level. A woman should not misuse her womanhood for the sake of politics.’’

The Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and Aam Aadmi Party have condemned the case against Awhad calling it politically motivated. The anti corruption activist Ms Anjali Damania in a tweet said, ‘’molestation? What do you think of the accusation? I have fought a lot against Jitendra Awad, but this accusation against him is very wrong.’’

CM Shinde reacts

However, the Maharashtra BJP president Mr Chandrashekhar Bawankule earlier in the day said, "Just see the video, the NCP leader's act of violence is clearly visible. Without any delay, NCP should immediately sack Jitendra Awhad. He should not be forgiven for assaulting a woman. They have no right to talk about women empowerment. Sharad Pawar ji and Ajit Pawar ji should immediately demand his resignation." 

The Chief Minister Mr Eknath Shinde in his reaction said, ‘’The woman has lodged an offence. The police will investigate and take action . No action will be taken out of political vendetta.’’

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