Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut, among the most vociferous backers of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray amid a revolt in the party, has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Mumbai for questioning tomorrow in a case of alleged money laundering.
Mr Raut, a Rajya Sabha member, responded with the charge that "this is a conspiracy to stop me". Team Thackeray has been saying that the mutiny led by Eknath Shinde is a result of "pressure of ED, CBI and other agencies" under the BJP-led central government. In his tweet, Mr Raut added that he "won't take the Guwahati route", referring to the rebels camping in the capital of BJP-ruled Assam.
I just came to know that the ED has summoned me.— Sanjay Raut (@rautsanjay61) June 27, 2022
Good ! There are big political developments in Maharashtra. We, Balasaheb's Shivsainiks are fighting a big battle. This is a conspiracy to stop me. Even if you behead me, I won't take the Guwahati route.
Arrest me !
Jai Hind! pic.twitter.com/VeL6qMQYgr
Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who is also the son of the Chief Minister, said about the summons to Mr Raut, "This is not politics; it is now a circus."
The summons are in connection with the Rs 1,034-crore Patra Chawl land scam case, in which the ED attached properties of Mr Raut's family in April.
Two months on, as several Shiv Sena MLAs rebelled and sought a breakup of the Sena's Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Mr Raut accused them of acting on the BJP's directions. The rebels have insisted that the Sena should go back to its "natural" alliance with the BJP, citing a shared Hindutva ideology.
Challenging the ideology claim, Team Thackeray has repeatedly accused the central government of misusing the ED.
"Even we have ED pressure but we will continue to stand with Uddhav Thackeray," Sanjay Raut told reporters last Thursday. "He who leaves the party under ED pressure is not a true Balasaheb bhakt," he had further said, pledging allegiance to Uddhav Thackeray's father and party founder Bal Thackeray. Rebel Eknath Shinde too has cited Bal Thackeray as his guiding light.
Meanwhile, the battle for a claim to the "real" Shiv Sena is now being fought in court as well. The Shinde camp has moved the Supreme Court against the Shiv Sena's move to disqualify him and 15 other rebel MLAs. In the petition, Mr Shinde has claimed that the ruling alliance in Maharashtra has lost majority as 38 of 55 Shiv Sena legislators have "withdrawn support".
A petition has been filed in the Bombay High Court, too — this one, a public interest litigation or PIL by a group of citizens against Eknath Shinde and other rebel Sena MLAs for "causing a political turmoil". It urges the court to direct the rebel leaders to return to Maharashtra to resume their duties.