State to take action against Rathod; CM should not succumb to pressure on show of strength

Political observers of the state are wondering why the Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is not initiating action against the forest minister Sanjay Rathod, who had gone to Pohradevi temple in Washim, along with his supporters, who flouted COVID-19 norms. Instead, the Chief Minister Thackeray directed the administration to take immediate action against the supporters of minister, who gathered there and violated of COVID-19 norms at the shrine. This selective action has also exposed the hypocracy of the state power.

Rathod was seen visiting the Pohradevi Temple in Washim district amid tight security during which many of his supporters thronged his vehicle creating a commotion. In the midst of rising coronavirus infections in the state, Rathod’s supporters were seen flouting social distancing and face mask norms as they gathered around his vehicle. The supporters also clashed with the police and security personnel and they had to use batons to disperse the crowd.

The controversial Maharashtra minister Rathod, who is linked with the suicide of TikTok star Pooja Chavan, resurfaced in public with a show of strength at the Pohardevi temple, an important place of worship for the Banjara community in Washim district, on Tuesday afternoon. The minister was flanked by his wife Sheetal Rathod, giving a clear message that his family is supportive of him during this difficult phase. But that doesn’t mean the minister is innocent and police should not take action against him.
The minister was unreachable for the last 15 days after the death of 23-year-old Pooja at Pune.

The young lady allegedly committed suicide by jumping from the Heaven Park building in Pune’s Wanawadi area on February 8. The Maharashtra police, probing the case, reported it as an accidental case and dismissed anything suspicious in the matter. While the Maharashtra police were all set to write off the case, terming it an accidental death, six days after the suicide of the young TikTok celebrity, the Sena leader and Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod’s name surfaced in connection with the case. Many audio clips allegedly linked to Pooja Chavan’s death, moreover, alluding to the involvement of the state minister, went viral on social media. In one of the viral audio clips, one person is heard making some suggestions to suppress a case. The person also issues instructions in Marathi translated as: “in any case, take possession of laptops and mobiles, this issue should not be escalated”. Moreover, some social media posts claimed that Pooja Chavan was in a relationship with Rathod.

Though the minister said that there was an attempt to finish his political career, but he didn’t deny that he didn’t know the girl. “All allegations against me in the case were baseless. The chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered an inquiry into the matter. It should be thoroughly investigated so that the truth comes out. My family and my community are with me,” he defended. But these are enough to free the minister from all allegations.

This is the second such case after Dhananjay Munde, another minister of Thackeray cabinet, who similarly saved his ministership last month by using the show of strength at his home town Beed. Munde was linked with a woman who is allegedly his second wife and accused for sexually exploiting her sister for years.

Opposition parties, particularly the BJP, strongly criticised the Maha-Vikas-Aghadi government and especially the Shiv Sena for not taking any action against the minister. The opposition demanded inquiry against the minister and his removal from the cabinet. However, Rathod continues to be a cabinet minister. Rathod has put pressure on the party by showing his strength at Pohardevi temple on Tuesday too.

Today’s “huge gathering” at the Banjara temple was seen as a show of strength and the minister wants to give a signal that he is a strong leader of the Banjara community and if the chief minister tries to drop him from the cabinet, it would affect the Sena in the coming days. Now all eyes are on the state CM’s decision.

The chief minister Thackeray should not succumb under such pressure or threat from any politicians and if so, it would show the present government in a bad light.

** M Charulata

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