NEWS
10/04/2020 4:48 PM IST

Wadhwan Case Is Maharashtra Govt’s Second Political Embarrassment In One Week

As the Uddhav Thackeray govt races to control the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also dealing with at least two allegations of bias and highhandedness.

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File image of Uddhav Thackeray

NAGPUR, Maharashtra — Maharashtra has reported the most number of COVID-19 cases in the country, but chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has been praised for his government’s handling of the situation.

However, two separate incidents in just the past week have left the government red-faced and given some space to the Devendra Fadnavis-led opposition to criticise the ruling coalition. Both also involve Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders directly or indirectly, which could lead to some strain for the Maha Vikas Aghadi as well.

The first incident took place on the night of April 5, when right-wing activist Anant Karmuse was allegedly assaulted by some supporters of Jitendra Awhad, state housing minister and NCP leader, for a post against the minister on social media.

The incident allegedly took place at the minister’s bungalow while he and some policemen part of his security team were present.

Avhad has denied any knowledge of any such incident but shared some screenshots from his social media accounts of the alleged comments made by Karmuse, who is a follower of Sambhaji Bhide, a right-wing activist who has been accused of inciting communal violence in Bhima Koregaon in 2018 and in some other districts of western Maharashtra.

 Five people were arrested on Thursday on Karmuse’s complaint. 

The second incident came to light on Thursday night when a letter, purportedly written by a senior official of the state home ministry, was leaked on social media—in it, the officer gave permission to 23 members of the controversial Wadhwan family of Mumbai to travel to Mahabaleshwar and Khandala despite the strict lockdown in the state.

Although all 23 members of the Wadhwan family, including Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd promoters Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhwan, were booked for violating the lockdown and the official—Amitabh Gupta, special principal secretary, home—was sent on compulsory leave, the damage was done. 

The BJP was quick to react to both the incidents.

On Tuesday, Fadnavis, leader of opposition in the state assembly and former chief minister, demanded the expulsion of Awhad from the state cabinet.

On Friday, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya filed a criminal complaint at a police station in Mumbai against Gupta for protecting the Wadhwan brothers, who are facing multiple investigations over allegations of fraud. 

Both the instances are also likely to put some strain on the Maha Vikas Aghadi government as Awhad is from the NCP and the home ministry is also under the party’s Anil Deshmukh.

While Awhad claims that Karmuse was posting objectionable and obscene posts about his family members and party leaders, both the Shiv Sena and NCP leadership are displeased.

The Wadhwan incident has also upset the Shiv Sena as it has “shifted focus from the CM’s good work”.

“See, Shiv Sena is the most aggressive party in India and our workers just need a signal to get on the street but we have been extremely gracious since Uddhav ji became the CM. At a time when even his critics are praising the good work done by the CM, such distractions are really unwanted. Both incidents could have been avoided. The BJP was shooting in the dark until now but these incidents have given them an unnecessary excuse to target the government,” a Shiv Sena MLC told HuffPost India on condition of anonymity.