In a development that shook Maharashtra politics, veteran Maratha leader Vinayak Mete died in a car accident on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway early on Sunday.
Police said Mete's driver rammed into a ten-wheeler truck ahead of him while trying to overtake it from the right.
A former member of the state legislative council, Mete was a leader of the Maratha organisation Shiv Sangram, which is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance.
According to the Raigad police, the accident occurred on the Rasayani stretch of the expressway at dawn on Sunday, when Mete was travelling towards Mumbai with his driver and police bodyguard.
They said that while the exact time of the incident is not clear, the Maharashtra Highway Police received a call at 5:58 am and immediately dispatched all nearby units.
“Multiple teams reached the spot within minutes and Mete was removed from the car immediately,” said a highway police officer.
Using the Green Corridor, where one lane of a highway is isolated for an emergency purpose, Mete was rushed to the MGM Hospital at Kamothe but was declared dead before admission.
The Rasayani police, in whose jurisdiction the accident happened, subsequently initiated inquiries with the driver, Eknath Kamble, to ascertain the sequence of events.
Kamble, however, had already given telephonic interviews to television news channels in which he claimed that he had tried to hail passing vehicles for help for an hour, but in vain.
Kamble’s claim has been rubbished by the police. “We have a group call at the end of every shift, where we have to account for every call received by the control room that is directed to us,” said a senior officer with the Raigad police. “Had Kamble called the control room immediately, we would have rushed help, the same way we did when we ultimately received the call. There is a major time lapse between the accident and the call.”
The Rasayani police have so far only been able to confirm that Kamble rammed into a ten-wheeler truck in front of him while trying to overtake it from the right side.
“The fact that the vehicle is totally damaged from the left side confirms this,” said an officer who is part of the investigation team. “Both Mete and [his bodyguard] Dhobale were sitting on the left side of the car and were the worst affected. Further, the stretch of highway is a one-way stretch and so there is no question of an oncoming vehicle having hit the car.”
Constable Ram Dhobale, who was assigned as Mete’s security detail, was removed from the mangled remains of the car a short while later and rushed to the MGM hospital, where he is still receiving treatment.
Raigad Superintendent of Police Ashok Dudhe said inquiries are on and no case has been registered yet.