A telling picture of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar steering a golf cart with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray sitting beside him, posted by the NCP leader on social media on Monday, raised eyebrows in the Shiv Sena.
The old picture carried the greeting: “Best wishes to the Hon. CM of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena President and MVA leader Uddhav Thackeray. Wish you a healthy & long life!”
However, much was more read into the file picture that grabbed all attention – coming barely a day after Thackeray proclaimed in an interview that “I hold the steering wheel” of the Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress government in the state.
More so, the 62-year old Ajit Pawar’s post came at midnight, and fuelled speculation on social media on its “hidden message” on the first-time Chief Minister’s 60th birthday from the fourth-time Deputy CM, barely five days after his own (Ajit Pawar’s) birthday on July 22.
Grilled on this by media persons, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut adroitly sidestepped it, saying that irrespective of what the picture shows, “it is the Shiv Sena’s vehicle” – clearly implying that the party was the de facto Big Brother of the MVA alliance government.
He added that given his vast experience, Ajit Pawar keeps giving “oil & water” to the vehicle (government) and ensures it keeps running at high speed.
On sarcastic remarks by Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis who compared the MVA to an autorickshaw, Thackeray had shot back saying he was in the driving seat and other two (allies) were sitting behind.
Pointing out that the government’s fate does not depend on the Opposition, Thackeray had asserted what is more important is the government is functioning properly “with balance”.
Hoping to mollify any ruffled feathers in the alliance, Ajit Pawar rushed to ‘Matoshri’ on Monday evening and personally greeted Thackeray on his birthday.
Shortly afterwards, he was joined by state Congress President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, NCP senior ministers Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, besides Shiv Sena’s Minister Eknath Shinde.
Apparently cordial and warm despite sporting masks, leaders of the three alliance parties immediately circulated the pictures of the exclusive birthday get-together with Thackeray, ostensibly to drive out the blues created by Ajit Pawar’s earlier photo.
The day started on a cheerful note for Thackeray who was warmly greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ruling MVA allies and opposition BJP leaders.
“Best wishes to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackerayji on his birthday. I pray for Uddhavji’s long and healthy life”, Modi said, adding that a birthday is a day to reminisce of the past, as well as to chart a course for the future.
“I believe today will give you more strength to achieve the goals of the development of the state and the country,” said the PM.
Thorat, Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule, Fadnavis, BKP state chief Chandrakant Patil and others also wished him the best of health and a long life and a healthy year ahead.
In view of the Covid pandemic, Thackeray had announced that he would not celebrate his birthday but suggested his party men should organise medical camps, and blood and plasma donation drives for public benefit, or donate to the CM Relief Fund.
“Since the past four months, we have been combating Corona and have got good results. Please avoid putting up banners, hoardings, etc on my birthday and maintain Covid protocols strictly. All the wishes and blessings I dedicate to the Corona Warriors,” said Thackeray.
Shiv Sena’s ill MP skips ED hearing, seeks fortnight’s time
Yavatmal-Washim Shiv Sena MP Bhavana Gawali skipped a hearing by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on grounds of ill health, here on Wednesday.
Instead, a team of her lawyers went to the ED and submitted a letter seeking another 15 days’ time to enable the MP to appear before the central probe agency.
Political sources said that Gawali – who was first summoned on October 4 but did not attend the ED office owing to prior commitments – is suffering from chickenpox and has sought more time to go and answer the ED’s queries.
The ED is probing allegations of money laundering indulged by Gawali and her associates for criminal conspiracy to fraudulently convert a trust into a private company.
Later, the ED arrested one of the aides Saeed Khan, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and wants to quiz Gawali about her links with him and certain misappropriation of funds amounting to around Rs 25 crore.
While denying the allegations against her, Gawali has accused the ED of targeting her solely because she belongs to a state party, Shiv Sena.
The ED entered the picture after the Risod Police in Washim registered a complaint of cheating and criminal breach of trust against various persons including the trustees, and later the ED carried out multiple raids at her premises in Yavatmal, Washim, and Mumbai.
Sena Minister to SC: Probe NCB, Aryan Khan’s ‘fundamental rights breach’
In a significant development, a senior Shiv Sena leader urged the Supreme Court to order a probe by a sitting judge of the apex court into the affairs of Narcotics Control Bureau and violation of fundamental rights of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan.
Making the plea under Article 32 of the Constitution, Kishore Tiwari, accorded the Minister of State (MoS) status, has urged Chief Justice N.V. Ramana’s ‘top priority’ intervention into the manner in which the ‘biased’ NCB is hounding film personalities, models and other celebs since the past nearly two years with ‘malafide motives’.
He said that under Article 32, the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) are duty-bound to take cognisance of every matter pertaining to the fundamental rights violation, as guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution, which the NCB is flouting.
Referring to the Special NDPS Court (Mumbai) deferring the verdict in the bail plea of Aryan Khan and other accused till October 20 citing public holidays, the plea said this has subjected the accused “to big humiliation and kept in jail in an undemocratic and illegal way” for 17 nights.
This is in utter disregard to the fundamental Right to Life and Liberty as enshrined in the Constitution and the question of ‘bail is the norm, jail is the exception’, which has been upheld and settled by SC many times, as reiterated by former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi.
Accusing the NCB and its officials of ‘vendetta’ by targeting select celebs, Tiwari demanded a probe into the role of the central narcotics agency and the Mumbai Zonal Director (Sameer Wankhede), whose wife is a well-known Marathi filmstar, in direct competition with the other stars and celebs being hounded.
Pointing a needle of suspicion at Wankhede, the plea said the officer’s wife is trying to make big in Bollywood, and that’s why only leading names in the film industry, their families, national-international models, producers-directors are brought under the NCB lens.
“Starting with the probe into the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, the probe has been ‘totally diverted in an unrelated direction’ … The alleged NCB seizures are ‘miniscule jokes’ compared to the Mumbai Police achievements, or the DRI which last month seized 3000-kgs drugs from Mundra Port in Gujarat,” Tiwari said in the plea.
When the law has been settled by the highest court of the country, the NCB and the Special NDPS Court have “failed to give due regards” by depriving Aryan Khan and others bail, which could be done right away, even on public holidays, and thus there is ‘total miscarriage of justice’.
“With the recent shocking exposure on NCB by Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik, its high time the NCB Mumbai and all-India must be probed by an SC judge to unravel the rackets and the truth…It’s a fit case for immediate intervention by the SC,” Tiwari demanded, among other things.
Contending the NCB’s grudge and autocratic style are even more glaring, the Sena leader added that no contraband drugs were recovered from Aryan Khan, there was no medical examination proving consumption, etc., yet he has been shunted into different types of custody since October 3, echoing former Attorney General of India Rohatgi.
After the NCB swooped on a luxury cruise ship to bust an alleged rave party on October 2, Aryan Khan, along with 7 others were detained, arrested on October 3 and have remained in NCB and judicial custody since for the past 17 days, with their bail order likely be delivered by Special Judge V.V. Patil on Wednesday (October 20).
LS bypoll: ‘Get Joe Biden, we are not scared’, Raut taunts BJP
Kickstarting the campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha bypoll to the Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli seat, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the party is not worried even if the BJP brings US President Joe Biden for canvassing, here on Saturday.
“When the Shiv Sena speaks, it’s called a roar. The Railway Minister of India is sitting in Silvassa for the past four days. Is there no work left in his ministry or has it been auctioned off like Air India? Even if they deploy Biden for campaign, we are not bothered,” Raut said.
The Shiv Sena has fielded Kalaben M. Delkar, the widow of former seven time MP Mohan S. Delkar, who committed suicide in a Mumbai hotel on February 22.
“There is a reign of terror in Dadra & Nagar Haveli unleashed by the current administration. Mohan Delkar ‘sacrificed’ his life for the people. We have fielded Kalaben Delkar to ensure justice for his ‘atma-samarpan’ and the masses of this Union Territory are suffering under the present regime,” Raut asserted.
Addressing mediapersons here, the Sena’s Chief Spokesperson took potshots at the BJP, saying that even during the West Bengal elections, the entire Union Cabinet and the BJP top brass campaigned there, but they proved no match for the charisma of Mamata Banerjee.
“In the same way, no attempts by the BJP will work here. We have held the hand of Kalaben Delkar, she’s our mother and sister, we will support her throughout. We expect her poll victory will be the biggest ever in the electoral history of this constituency,” Raut declared.
He said Kalaben Delkar does not need any sympathy but only support since her family has worked in the UT – around 170 km north of Mumbai nestling between Maharashtra-Gujarat borders – for several decades and she deserved to win the seat held by her late husband and her late father-in-law Sanjibhai R. Delkar.
“After the 2024 elections, Shiv Sena will play a crucial role in national politics… It will start with the Dadra & Nagar Haveli seat. It’s a fight for our dignity and self-respect and we shall struggle till the end,” Raut said.
Last week, Kalaben Delkar, along with her family and thousands of supporters joined the Shiv Sena in the presence of party President and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai and was made the candidate for the parliamentary bypoll, taking political circles by surprise.
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