Updated: March 1, 2021 9:17:49 am
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday accepted the resignation of Shiv Sena leader and Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod, weeks after he came under the scanner over his alleged links with the death of a 22-year-old woman in Pune.
Rathod is the first minister to resign from the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government since its formation in November 2019.
Thackeray, while addressing the media on the eve of the budget session of the state legislature, said that Rathod had resigned on his own and the Forest Ministry portfolio is now with him. However, while the sources from Raj Bhavan said it is yet to receive Rathod’s resignation, sources in the Shiv Sena said that Thackeray will decide on sending Rathod’s resignation to the Governor. As per norms, the CM sends the minister’s resignation to the Governor.
“Dirty politics is being played (by the opposition) in the past few months. Investigation must be conducted impartially and action taken if anybody is found guilty. There should not be any pressure on investigative agencies to save someone from the case or destroy someone’s life.
The investigation is being carried out impartially,” said Thackeray.
“I want an impartial probe to be conducted in this matter and the truth will come out. So, I have tendered my resignation to CM,” said Rathod.
Pooja Chavan, a resident of Parli Vaijanath in Beed district, had died after falling from the balcony of a flat in Pune’s Hadapsar area two weeks ago. Several photos and audio clips surfaced in the last few days purportedly linking Rathod to her suspected suicide.
Stating that orders to conduct an impartial probe were issued immediately after the incident came to the notice of the government, Thackeray said that nobody would be spared and the guilty would be punished.
“You may be wondering why it took so many days. Taking a resignation or registering an offence does not mean giving justice to someone. The police have been instructed to fix a time-bound plan for investigation and submit a report to us,” he added.
Thackeray also said that Pooja’s parents and her sister met him in the evening requesting justice and handed him a letter describing the allegations against Rathod as baseless.
“Nobody should be made a scapegoat only because of suspicion. We have never demanded the resignation of Rathod. While we have lost our daughter, politics is being played daily on her death. So, don’t take the resignation of Rathod by making him an accused due to politics,” stated the letter signed by the parents and sister.
Earlier in the day, Rathod met Thackeray at his official residence Varsha and handed him his resignation. Sena ministers Eknath Shinde, Anil Parab and others were present for the meeting, which lasted two hours.
“I have tendered my resignation as minister to CM Uddhav Thackeray. In the last few days, the opposition played dirty politics over the death of a 22-year-old woman of our community. The opposition defamed me and my community through media and social media. It was done to destroy my political career. So, I want an impartial probe to be conducted in this matter and the truth will come out. So, I have tendered my
resignation to CM,” said Rathod.
The Indian Express was the first to report on Friday that Rathod would resign before the start of the budget session. The 10-day session will start on Monday, and the Opposition is likely to corner the MVA government on the issue.
Rathod said he had been saying repeatedly that the police are conducting a probe and truth will come out. “But the opposition said it will not allow smooth functioning of the budget session, which is against democracy and Ambedkar’s Constitution. In any case, action should be taken only after inquiry. So I have decided to step down,” he added.
On the opposition’s demand of an FIR against Rathod, Thackeray hit out at the BJP and asked whether those named in the suicide note written by Mohan Delkar, MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, have the blessings of the top BJP leadership.
“There is no suicide note but the opposition is demanding that a case be registered against Rathod due to suspicion. But there was a suicide of seven-term MP Mohan Delkar in Mumbai, in which people have been named. If these people are from the BJP, does it mean they have the blessings of the top BJP leadership?” he asked.
Sources had said that the issue of Rathod’s resignation was discussed when he met Thackeray on Wednesday. “During the meeting, the CM told him ‘take a decision yourself rather than waiting for me to act’… The CM wants Rathod to resign in the next two days before the commencement of the budget session,” a senior Sena leader had said on condition of anonymity.
The Sena leader had said that there is consensus in the government and among MVA allies over Rathod’s resignation. “It is a question of the image of the government, the party and the CM. Even NCP chief Sharad Pawar conveyed to the CM that it is a convention to accept the resignation of a minister when serious allegations are levelled,” the leader added.
Meanwhile, Pune Police have said that preliminary probe into Pooja’s death is yet to reach a conclusion, thus an offence is yet to be registered. Police have recorded statements of some people who were in contact with Pooja or her family members.
A distant relative of Pooja had recently approached Wanawadi police station and sought a probe into the audio clips circulating on social media. The application named Rathod and two others.
Police officials said that because no new concrete information came through the application, an FIR was not registered. The probe into the authenticity and content of audio clips is on.
Wanawadi police station issued a notice to the complainant relative and a social worker accompanying her, saying they should not pressure the police over filing an FIR.
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