On the eve of the State’s budget session, Maharashtra’s forest minister Sanjay Rathod, who faces allegations in the death by suicide of the young TikTok star Pooja Chavan, tendered his resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday. The resignation was immediately accepted by Thackeray, who will hold Rathod’s portfolio and along with the minister of state, will reply to questions and debates in the state legislature.
“I have submitted my resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray,” Rathod told reporters. “Until the probe is complete, I have stepped down. The BJP has played ugly politics, defaming me and my Banjara community. I have been in public life for three decades but have never seen the opposition stooping to such a low. I have tendered my resignation as the opposition threatened to disrupt the legislature proceedings, otherwise,” said Rathod.
“I want a fair inquiry to be conducted and the truth to come out,” he said.
CM Thackeray said the investigation into the matter was a must, that no matter who it was, a fair and just inquiry had to be conducted and the person responsible, no matter how big or influential, would not be spared. However, without naming the BJP, Thackeray noted that there was a concerted attempt to impress upon the government what the direction of the inquiry should be, he added.
He lashed out at the BJP for showing no confidence in the investigating machinery.
Legislative Affairs Minister Anil Parab read out Rathod’s resignation letter. Further, Parab also read out a two-page letter submitted by Pooja Chavan’s parents, who had expressed faith and confidence in Thackeray and the investigation machinery. They also said that they had not accused Rathod in connection with their daughter’s death. Parab added that Pooja Chavan’s parents had urged that the defaming of their daughter and family had to stop.
Rathod has stepped down to take the air out the BJP’s plan to target the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government during the budget session. Internal bickering within the Sena also forced him to cave in. Rathod, who comes from the two-crore strong Banjara community in the state, was strongly backed by Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, who had wanted Rathod to stay on till the probe was over. However, other ministers and senior legislators had argued that if Rathod did not resign, it would adversely impact Thackeray’s image.
Further, Rathod’s move to organise a show of strength at the Pohradevi temple in Washim district went against him. A section of party ministers said Rathod could have avoided mobilising large numbers of his supporters. For the last 18 days, the BJP had carried out a sustained campaign against Rathod and the MVA government, which had made the Shiv Sena restless.