The rivalry between these bitter foes - senior leader of the Shiv Sena and the party's Lok Sabha candidate from Shirdi, Babanrao Gholap, and social activist Anna Hazare has – has come full circle after a special court's verdict on Friday. The court found Gholap and his wife Shashikala guilty of holding assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.
In a 15-year-old case, Gholap was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment, a judgment that disqualifies his candidature and current status as a legislator, in view of the recent SC verdict.
Hazare, who fought a long legal battle against Gholap, said, "With the latest verdict, the people's faith in the judiciary has been strengthened."
The original petitioner in this case, Milind Yavatkar of Bhrashtachar Nirmulan Kruti Samiti, said, "This will be the first case in Maharashtra in which a guilty person has been barred from contesting the polls."
Hazare added, "In my letter, I had warned Thackeray not to field Gholap from Shirdi. Now that the court has given its verdict, the Sena has no choice but to change its candidate."
On Tuesday, Hazare had appealed to Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray to reconsider the party's decision to field Gholap, citing cases of graft and disproportionate assets against him.
In his three-page letter to Thackeray, Hazare said, "Doesn't the Shiv Sena's decision to field Gholap from Shirdi mean the party wants to shield the corrupt, especially when it takes the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji?"
Reacting to the judgement, Gholap said, "I don't want to comment on the latest judgement. I will approach the high court and present my case."
In 1998, it was because of Gholap that Hazare spent three months in Yerwada jail for defamation when the activist accused the senior Sena leader of corruption. Recalling the incident, Hazare wrote in his letter, "Gholap filed a defamation case against me in which he misled the judiciary by presenting fake evidence and witnesses."
A cabinet minister between 1995 and 1999, Gholap, who is currently representing the Deolali camp assembly segment, faced numerous corruption cases when the Sena-BJP government was in power. He was, however, convicted for the first time on Tuesday.