Updated: May 29, 2022 3:57:33 pm
After pulling out from the Rajya Sabha elections, Kolhapur royal family scion Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati said on Sunday that he was “genuine and truthful” following his father Shrimant Shahu Maharaj Chhatrapati’s claims that Maharashtra Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might have coerced him into his initial decision of contesting as an Independent candidate.
Sambhajiraje, a direct descendant of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, announced on Friday that he would not contest the Rajya Sabha polls, a decision that followed the Shiv Sena’s refusal to support his candidature as an Independent candidate.
When asked whether it was Fadnavis who had asked him to contest as an Independent, Sambhajiraje told The Indian Express: “I will not speak on my father’s subject… My tweet says it all… I only know I’m genuine and true, and have slogged for the last two decades.”
Sambhajiraje had earlier tweeted in Marathi: “…I have told the truth. I respect my father. I don’t want to comment on what he said….”
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Sambhajiraje also said that he is standing by what he had earlier said during a press conference. He had alleged in the press conference that the ruling Shiv Sena had promised to back his candidature but betrayed him. The Sena, instead, has fielded sitting MP Sanjay Raut and Sanjay Pawar, the Kolhapur district chief of party, for the Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra BJP has refused to get into the controversy. “Sambhajiraje has reacted to what his father Shahu Maharaj has said… We don’t want to say anything further,” said BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhaye.
On Saturday, Shahu Maharaj at a press conference in Kolhapur said that his son had decided to contest the Rajya Sabha election as an Independent candidate after meeting Fadnavis. “I have no clue what transpired at the meeting between the two. But it was after this meeting that Sambhajiraje decided to contest as an Independent candidate,” he said.
Shahu Maharaj said since Sambhajiraje wanted to become a Rajya Sabha member and met Fadnavis, he should have also met ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders and sought their support. “Instead, he met only Fadnavis and announced that he would contest as an Independent candidate and start his new outfit called Swarajya. I think this was a mistake,” he said.
At a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, Sambhajiraje claimed that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had promised that Shiv Sena would back his candidature. “I felt very bad…the CM failed to keep his word,” Sambhajiraje had said.
To this claim, Shahu Maharaj said: “After discussion between the two, a draft was prepared. But it was not a final copy and there were no signatures affixed on it…Therefore, the claim that the chief minister betrayed him is wrong.”
Shahu Maharaj also said that Sambhajiraje never discussed his political decisions with the family. “He takes his own decisions, never discusses them with me. He didn’t tell me that he wanted to contest as an Independent candidate,” said Shahu Maharaj, who added that he was against Sambhajiraje accepting the BJP offer to nominate him to Rajya Sabha in 2016.
Meanwhile, Raut, also a Sena spokesperson, said: “Shahu Maharaj has set the record straight. The Shiv Sena can never show disrespect to the royal family. It was the Sena which had first made the offer of Rajya Sabha seat to Sambhajiraje.”
Raut said Shahu Maharaj has also exposed the political games Fadnavis and the BJP were playing. “Shahu Maharaj has unmasked the BJP and Fadnavis and their attempts to play the politics of dividing the ‘bahujan’ votes,” he said, adding that the “Sambhajiraje chapter” was closed for them.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Umesh Patil said: “Sambhajiraje not contesting the Rajya Sabha seat, in a way, is a good development. Sambhajiraje, who is the direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, enjoys a far bigger status in society. Sambhajiraje has wide acceptance among the masses, he should continue his social work.”
Patil said: “It is possible that the BJP has played a role in Sambhajiraje deciding to contest as an Independent candidate. The BJP has no respect for the royal family, it just wants to use them for political purposes.”
The elections to six Rajya Sabha seats from the state will be held on June 10. The BJP, with its 105 MLAs, can get two candidates elected, while the Congress (44 MLAs), the NCP (54 MLAs) and the Shiv Sena (55 MLAs) have the numbers to get one candidate each elected.
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