Tiger in a tight spot
THE WEEK|March 14, 2021
Shiv Sena finds itself cornered over its former minister’s alleged involvement in the death of a 22-year-old woman
DNYANESH JATHAR

TOWARDS THE END of November 2019, as he was finalising the names for his cabinet, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray received a letter from senior Shiv Sena leaders from Vidarbha. They urged him not to pick Sanjay Rathod, a leader from the region’s Banjara community. Rathod had been minister of state in the Devendra Fadnavis government, and his performance was nothing to boast about, they wrote. Had Thackeray honoured the letter, signed by two MPs and three legislators, he would not have had to force Sanjay Rathod to resign as forest minister. Rathod, whose name has been linked to the death of 22-year-old Pooja Chavan, resigned on February 28, a day before the state legislature’s budget session began. The opposition, led by the BJP, had threatened to disrupt the session if Rathod did not resign.

Chavan is also from the Banjara community and hails from Parli Vaijnath in Beed district; she died after she reportedly fell from the balcony of her Pune apartment at around midnight on February 7. She had shifted to Pune to learn “English speaking”, and was active on social media. The police have registered an accidental death report. Initially, it was suggested that she had died by suicide as she was suffering from psoriasis. Later though, nearly a dozen audio clips of telephone conversations between a person named Arun and an unidentified man surfaced. The unidentified man’s voice is allegedly similar to that of Rathod.

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