Maharashtra Cabinet: Sanjay Rathod's Entry Leads To Friction As BJP Cites Suicide Case

Sanjay Rathod was minister in Uddhav Thackeray's government before he had to quit over TikTok star's suicide; Eknath Shinde defends including him now

Maharashtra Cabinet: Sanjay Rathod's Entry Leads To Friction As BJP Cites Suicide Case

Legislator from Digras in Yavatmal, Sanjay Rathod was accused in woman's suicide in Pune..


Inclusion of Sanjay Rathod — a rebel Sena legislator once accused of abetting a TikTok star's suicide — in the Maharashtra cabinet is causing the first bit of public friction in Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's alliance with the BJP. 

The trigger is a tweet by Chitra Wagh, vice-chief of the BJP's state unit, but it was Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who'd led the party's charge against Mr Rathod as Leader of Opposition not long ago. 

Mr Rathod, who was Forest Minister in Uddhav Thackeray's cabinet, had to resign due to the case.

Eknath Shinde has defended including him now: "He's been given the clean chit by police after investigation during the previous government. That's why we have made him a minister. We will speak to anyone who has an objection." 

He was reacting to Ms Wagh's tweet and video, in which she said, "It is very unfortunate that Sanjay Rathod, who caused the death of Maharashtra's daughter Pooja Chavan, has been given the post of minister again... I will continue my fight against him." 

An older tweet is going viral too — this one a video by BJP's Kirit Somaiyya from last year when he said the suicide was in fact "a murder" by Sanjay Rathod. Mr Somaiyya, who was at the cabinet's oath-taking function today, has not reacted to allegations of hypocrisy.

Sanjay Rathod is the legislator from Digras constituency in Yavatmal. There were allegations that he was in a relationship with the woman that went bad, leading to her death by suicide.

He was cleared, however, by a special investigation team formed by the Yavatmal Superintendent of Police Dilip Patil Bhujbal in August last year.

In the Sena mutiny that unseated that alliance, Mr Rathod was one of the MLAs who sided with Team Shinde, breaking up the Shiv Sena and "resuming a natural alliance" with the BJP. Mr Shinde had cited the "clean chit" last month too — barely a week after taking charge — amid speculations that Sanjay Rathod would get a cabinet spot.

Today, Mr Rathod was one of 18 MLAs sworn in at a grand ceremony in Mumbai as the cabinet was finally expanded beyond the Shinde-Fadnavis duo. Chief Minister Shinde met MLAs of his camp ahead of the ceremony. He is backed by 40 of the 55 Shiv Sena MLAs.

The expansion came more than six weeks after a rebellion by the Shinde faction brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Opposition had criticised the delay. 

In the run-up to the expansion, there were several meetings between Mr Shinde and the BJP leadership as he flew down to Delhi to discuss the names with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and others.