Sanjay Rathod stages show of strength amid Covid fears

Sanjay Rathod stages show of strength as Covid SOPs go for a toss

Sanjay Rathod. Credit: Twitter/@SanjayDRathods.

A fortnight after social media star Pooja Chavan was found dead, Maharashtra’s forest minister and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Rathod staged a mammoth show of strength making a public appearance for the first time denying all charges against him.

However, Covid-19 protocols and SOPs – as suggested by Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray – went for a toss and police in Yavatmal and Washim districts had a tough time in controlling the mob.

A Banjara leader of the Banjara community from the Vidarbha region, Rathod’s name cropped up linking him to the death of Pooja Chavan, a social media star from Beed, who was found dead in Pune.

Thackeray had ordered a probe amid demands by the BJP forsaking him from the ministry and that an offense of abetment of suicide and culpable homicide be lodged against him.
Rathod (49) is also the guardian minister of the Yavatmal district in the Vidarbha region, where the Covid-19 cases are rapidly growing.

On Tuesday, Rathod, accompanied by his wife, Shital Rathod, and a huge gathering of supporters, drove from Yavatmal to Wahim and took blessings at Pohradevi Temple and performed rituals.  He also visited other shrines.

As his cavalcade moved from different villages, a huge crowd welcomed him. In some places, police had to use force to disperse the crowd. There was no physical distancing concept and several people were without masks or have not worn it properly.

“A probe is underway and everything would be clear after that,” he said, however, refusing to get into the details. “I have been working for the last 30 years for the Banjara, VJNT and OBC communities also....there is a move to scuttle my political career by making allegations,” he said.

He said that the Banjara community is with the family of Pooja Chavan. “Her death is unfortunate,” he said, adding that people should not defame him linking to her death.
Meanwhile, state BJP women’s wing vice president and activist Chitra Wagh said that her party would continue to raise the issue of death of the girl. “Hats off to the Maha Vikas Aghadi the entire ministry has come together to save their minister,” she said.

Senior BJP leader Kiriti Somaiya said: “There is no justice for Pooja Chavan. But see the welcome, the crowd at the time of Covid-19.”

The girl, who was known for her videos on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, was found dead on 7 February. Audio clips of her purported conservation with two persons went viral.
It may be recalled, leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis had written to director general of police Hemant Nagrale, submitted 12 audio clips and sought a detailed probe.
On the other hand, her father Lahu Chavan had claimed that Pooja was in debt heavily and that family does not blame anyone for her death.


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