The Vidhan Bhavan, which turned into an unfair boxing ring as a pack of MLAs knocked out a traffic inspector two days ago, repurposed itself yesterday as a battleground for various parties with clashing interests.
The incident where well over a dozen legislators chased and bashed up traffic Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryavanshi in Vidhan Bhavan on Tuesday has shaken the stability of the Prithviraj Chavan government, while pitting political class against the police force.
Even as the state assembly approved a resolution to suspend five MLAs — Kshitij Thakur, Ram Kadam, Pradip Jaiswal, Jaikumar Rawal and Rajan Salvi — for the unseemly episode, Opposition parties BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS united in objecting to the suspension, sounding warning bells of further confrontation in coming days.
The parties have decided to take on the ruling Congress-NCP alliance, which may find it tough to sail through the ongoing budget session of the state legislature.
Police at the gates
As soon as the house adopted a motion moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan Patil to suspend the MLAs, Mumbai crime branch reached Vidhan Bhavan to arrest them. But the lawmakers stayed holed up in Vidhan Bhavan till late evening to avoid arrest. Sources said the legislators were cagey of media frenzy, with camera crews and TV reporters eager to tail them.
Incidentally, the arrest of Bahujan Vikas Aghadi’s Thakur and MNS’ Kadam is imminent as they were named in the FIR at Marine Drive police station by the API. Other MLAs may also be picked up for questioning.
Several crime branch teams were deployed throughout the day outside the assembly and residences of the Kadam and Thakur. Unit 7 of Ghatkopar was asked to keep an eye on Kadam’s house while Unit 12 (Dahisar) on Thakur’s residence.
“But none of the units got the nod to arrest anybody, as all the MLAs wanted in the case were in the assembly throughout the day. Later it was learnt that senior police officers and politicians reached an agreement that the accused MLAs would surrender before the crime branch on Thursday morning,” said a source.
Assembly Speaker Dilip Walse Patil, MLAs and government officials tried coaxing crime branch officers to put off arrests at Vidhan Bhavan, assuring them that the MLAs would surrender on Thursday. Till late evening, no solution came through as Crime Branch teams manned the three exit points of Vidhan Bhavan — at Jamnalal Bajaj Marg, Madam Cama Marg and near Maharshi Valmiki Chowk.
But the police teams’ haste landed them in a sticky spot after a senior official entered the Vidhan Bhavan premises without a valid entry pass. Police Commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh met the Speaker to defuse the controversy, and talk about the arrests of the MLAs.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is perched on the horns of a dilemma as MLAs are believed to have warned him of non-cooperation in passing of the budget if they are suspended. A meeting between Opposition party MLAs with the Speaker, Minister Harshwardhan Patil and Home Minister RR Patil was called on the issue of suspension. All eyes are on Chavan and his cabinet, as Opposition is certain to put the government on the mat while the belligerent MLAs threaten non-cooperation.
DGP, NCP firm
If sources from the state government are to be believed, the government was of a lenient view towards the MLAs engaged in thrashing API Suryavanshi. They said the FIR was registered late on Tuesday evening only after DGP Sanjeev Dayal took a firm stand saying, “We would certainly have taken strong action against the API had it not been for the MLAs beating him up at Vidhan Bhavan,” he believed to have said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, on the other hand, is believed to have told his party leaders that beating an official would result in “a major political embarrassment” and have far-reaching consequences. His stand against beating up a police official proved crucial, said a minister.