Maharashtra Forest Minister Quits, BJP Alleges He's Linked To Suicide Case

The BJP had been demanding his resignation from the post.

Sanjay Rathod has denied the charge (File)


Maharashtra Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod has resigned from his post after the opposition BJP linked him to a 23-year-old woman's alleged death by suicide in Pune.

"I have submitted my resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Since I have been accused of being linked to the woman's death, maligned, I don't think I should continue on this post...I will appeal (to the authorities) that a swift investigation should be conducted in this matter so that the truth comes out," he said.

The woman, Pooja Chavan, native of Maharashtra's Beed district, had been living in Pune with her brother and his friends to pursue an English-speaking course. The police said the woman allegedly died by suicide on February 8.

Two days after her death, an audio clip surfaced on social media in which two men are talking about the woman's death. The BJP claims one of the men in the audio clip is Mr Rathod.The Shiv Sena leader has denied the charge.

Responding to the opposition's demand of a case against the minister, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray today said an FIR (First Information Report) can't be registered before investigation.

"Our job is to behave properly and just. But politics has been dirty for the past few days. Investigation has to happen, and we believe it should be fair. But during investigation, destroying someone should not be the aim," he said at a press conference.

The BJP had been demanding his resignation from the post.

"Minister with serious allegations in Pooja Chavan suicide case should resign! The BJP protested against this by burning a statue of Sanjay Rathore in Beed district," BJP Maharashtra tweeted last week.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had also hit out at the Maharashtra government over the death.

"There is ample evidence against Sanjay Rathod but nothing is happening. If media reports had not come out, nothing would have happened. Are we heading towards a banana republic? The police are under pressure. First, there has to be an investigation on the police itself," Mr Fadnavis said last week.

The BJP's women's wing had staged a protest against Mr Rathod.

The woman's family has not filed a complaint over her death.