An infamous builder from Titwala, who was charged under the MCOCA and has been ‘absconding’ since the alleged attempted murder of a rival builder on May 22, was seen attending a Shiv Sena function in the presence of — and in the office of — Public Works Department Minister Eknath Shinde in Thane on Wednesday.
Santosh Balu Gondhale, aka Bhai, who is well known for photos of him wearing gold rings on all of his fingers and nearly 2 kg of gold around his neck, attended the function and walked out a free man despite Shinde’s bodyguards, some of whom are police officials, being present.
Santosh Balu Gondhale (below) and Eknath Shinde were standing within a few feet of each other at the function on Wednesday
On May 22 , six people had fired at building material supplier Sunil Gangaram Dhumal a resident of Murbad road in Titwala. Dhumal escaped death and suffered minor injuries, after which the cops had managed to arrest Anup Gondhale, Pandurang Samte, Ganesh Mhaskal, Mahesh Pal and Jaykumar Bhoir, while the main accused, Santosh Gondhale, was wanted. Besides registering a case under Section 307 (Attempt to murder) of the IPC, all of them were also booked by the Titwala police under MCOCA as they had a criminal past and had committed the crime for pecuniary gains — to finish off their competitor.
As the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal corporation (KDMC) elections are nearing, several corporators are shifting parties. On Wednesday, Mayur Patil, an Independent corporator from Ambivli near Kalyan, was inducted into the Shiv Sena in the office of Thane Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde.
What surprised people, however, was that standing just a few feet away from Shinde and Patil was the ‘absconding’ Gondhale. This, despite Shinde’s bodyguards being present and the headquarters of the Thane Rural Police, under whom the Titwala police function, being in the same area.
The Superintendent of the Thane Rural Police, Rajesh Pradhan, said, “There were no policemen in the function and, anyway, it was an in-house function, so how could we have known about Gondhale’s presence there? The alert residents should have informed us.”
People in the know, however, told mid-day cops have not arrested Gondhale, who is well known in the Titwala and Kalyan areas and even up to Thane, despite him celebrating a lavish birthday on July 15 for which hoardings were also put up. “He is very much in the area. How is it that the cops can’t find him?” asked one such person.