Shiv Sena Minister Sanjay Rathod, linked to Pune girl’s death, resigns from Maharashtra Cabinet

Mr. Thackeray has yet to take a call on whether or not to accept the Minister’s resignation

Amid furious opposition clamour, Maharashtra Forest Minister and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Rathod on Sunday resigned from the Maharashtra cabinet for his alleged connection with the death of a 23-year-old lady from the nomadic Banjara community in Pune.  

Mr. Rathod, who has been under fire from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for nearly three weeks following the incident, tendered his resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday. 

While Mr. Thackeray said that he had accepted the Minister’s resignation, he criticized the opposition for attempting to lynch Mr. Rathod before the completion of an impartial probe.

Stating that the affair was ‘a ploy’ to defame him, Mr. Rathod said that he would assist in the police investigation even as former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP’s Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Legislative Assembly, hit out at the Maharashtra police and Mr. Thackeray’s handling of the affair.

The Chief Minister in turn, riposted, remarking that linking Mr. Rathod to the girl’s death was “a case of dirty politics” on the part of the opposition.

“The MVA government has always believed that investigations must be conducted impartially, without regard to the office of the person. At the same time, the probe should not needlessly malign someone. Regrettably, the opposition wants the investigation to be conducted in his own way…without proper evidence, they were hell-bent on Mr. Rathod’s resignation. We had ordered a probe the day we came to know of the incident,” said Mr. Thackeray. 

He further censured the opposition’s lack of faith in the Maharashtra police and observed that even the deceased girl’s family had written to the Chief Minister stating that no person must be needlessly defamed on mere suspicion.

“If the girl’s family has faith in the investigation, then why does the opposition lack faith in the Maharashtra police? It is speculated that Independent MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli Mohan Delkar committed suicide under alleged pressure from some BJP leaders. So, how would it look if I demanded these leaders be brought to justice on mere suspicion?” asked Mr. Thackeray. 

Sena Minister Anil Parab informed that a probe against Mr. Rathod under an ‘Accidental Death report’ was underway.   

Meanwhile, pointing to the inordinate delay on part of the Maharashtra police in probing the case, Mr. Fadnavis said that despite Mr. Rathod’s resignation, a formal FIR had yet to be lodged against him. 

“This [resignation] has come too late … the current state of Maharashtra’s law and order situation is deplorable. Despite so much evidence against Mr. Rathod, why has no FIR still been lodged against him? This case has exposed the Thackeray government’s true colours,” he alleged. 

Mr. Fadnavis further said that while the Minister should have been made to resign immediately after the incident, the MVA government continued to shield him until Mr. Rathod’s position finally became untenable. 

“It is clear that this case was being suppressed right from the first day…Mr. Rathod had the blessings of this government, which has similarly shielded scandal-tainted NCP leaders Dhananjay Munde and Mehboob Shaikh,” he said. 

The BJP leader demanded that the government probe the tardiness of police officers entrusted with this case and sought their suspension. 

Mr. Fadnavis said that the BJP would continue to agitate until justice was served to the deceased lady’s kin.  

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