Sharad Pawar and Dhananjay Munde. (Hindustan Times)
Sharad Pawar and Dhananjay Munde. (Hindustan Times)

Maharashtra: Won’t ask Dhananjay Munde to resign for now, says NCP chief

Maharashtra social justice minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Dhananjay Munde will not have to resign from his post over allegations of rape for now, party chief Sharad Pawar said on Friday, adding he would be allowed to continue until the police investigation is completed
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 12:15 AM IST

Maharashtra social justice minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Dhananjay Munde will not have to resign from his post over allegations of rape for now, party chief Sharad Pawar said on Friday, adding he would be allowed to continue until the police investigation is completed.

The decision was taken considering the allegations of “honeytrapping” made by leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Pawar said. On the other hand, the opposition BJP announced an agitation from Monday, demanding removal of Munde from the state cabinet.

Pawar said he also suggested the police appoint an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) level woman officer to investigate the allegations against Munde as well as against the woman. “As I had said yesterday, we have taken the allegations against Munde seriously because a sister (complainant) had made the claims and we were discussing our course of action. But a few people have also made allegations against the same woman. We have come to the conclusion that there is a need for an in-depth investigation and so we will wait for the police investigation to be completed,” he said. “The woman, who is accusing Munde of sexual exploitation, is now facing allegations from three others. Considering this, anyone can make allegations against someone (other ministers) and then demand he be removed from the government. Hence, we will take the next step only after verifying the facts. A decision without verifying the facts is likely to bring injustice.”

The NCP took the decision in a late-night meeting of core committee members as leaders from the BJP and MNS alleged the same woman had tried to “honeytrap” them too. HT on Friday had reported that Munde may not have to resign from the ministerial council.

Senior NCP leaders were of the view that asking Munde to step down without any investigation, even after fresh revelations by different people, would not be right, said NCP insiders. “If Munde is forced to resign, there is a possibility that the same incident would be repeated with others. We should refrain from a knee-jerk reaction,” said a senior minister, requesting anonymity.

Munde has filed a petition against the complainant and her sister in the Bombay high court alleging blackmail. “NCP leaders were informed that the “blackmail” was going on for the past six years since Munde was appointed as the leader of opposition in the legislative Council,” said another NCP leader.

“When a person goes to the court, there is a possibility that he has some faith in what he has done,” Pawar said.

The complainant is the sister of a woman Munde was in a relationship with. On Friday, the woman reacted to the allegations against her on her social media account. “If I was wrong why these people were silent for so many years. I am proud of myself that I fought alone, even if I am forced to move back. I haven’t named any party but so many have ganged up against me,” she wrote. “Let’s do one thing. If you want to make a decision, go ahead without knowing the facts. I am ready to move back as you all are wanting (sic),” she added.

Meanwhile, the women’s wing of the state BJP unit announced a statewide agitation from coming Monday, demanding Munde’s resignation. In a release issued on Friday, Uma Khapre, state chief of the women’s wing, said, “Munde has himself admitted that he was in a relationship with another woman and has two children. We need to think of the message we are giving to society.”

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