Despite mounting attacks from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena has decided not to seek Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod’s resignation in connection with 23-year-old Tik Tok star Pooja Chavan’s suicide case. Shiv Sena’s argument in Rathod’s defence is that he is a four-term party legislator, who comes from the Banjara community, especially from the Vidarbha region, and he cannot be removed based on the allegations. “Rathod cannot be made a sacrificial limb only because of the campaign run by BJP. The party cannot lose an OBC face at a time when the government has been keeping the Maratha and OBC communities in good humour, especially on the reservation issue. The party is not in a mood to dump him and, thereby, give BJP an opportunity to fire a tirade against the government,” said a senior Shiv Sena minister.
Besides, Shiv Sena is not deterred by BJP’s scathing criticism. The party has hinted that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has absolved Social Justice Minister Dhananjay Munde after he faced rape allegations from a city-based singer. “Even though the singer has subsequently withdrawn her allegations, NCP stood firmly with Munde. In case of Rathod too, Shiv Sena is not in a hurry to remove him from the cabinet. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has already announced a probe into Pooja Chavan’s suicide and police investigation is currently underway,” said another minister.
On the corruption charges against Rathod in transfers and promotions and award of contracts, the Shiv Sena minister said such allegations were made against several BJP ministers when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis led the government from 2014 to 2019. However, Fadnavis gave a clean chit to practically every minister, except former Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, who was forced to resign in 2016 in Bhosari land deal case.
Meanwhile, state BJP Vice President Chitra Wagh, on Thursday, led a scathing attack against the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and Pune Police for allegedly trying to shield Rathod. Wagh visited Wanwadi police station and held a meeting with Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta. She questioned the police inaction and lack of filing a first information report (FIR) in the case.