Mumbai: Sexual harassment complaint divides BJP

BJP city president, Ashish Shelar, had sacked the entire youth wing after the complaint by a female worker; members feel he should have waited for an inquiry

The Bharatiya Janata Party is split over the handling of a sexual harassment case against the party’s youth leader Ganesh Pandey, who was sacked last week following a complaint by a female worker. A large section of the party feels that a ‘politically suicidal’ decision has backfired as it offered the opposition ammunition on a platter during the ongoing legislative session.

Shelar says he took the decision in consultation with party seniors
Shelar says he took the decision in consultation with party seniors

Many city BJP leaders, including MPs and legislators, have blamed the city BJP president Ashish Shelar for misjudging the situation and sacking the entire youth wing team at an inappropriate time. They say that the sacking could have waited further on a pretext of holding inquiry. They said the party’s decision of appointing an all-woman probe committee on Tuesday was too delayed because irreparable damage had already been done to the party.

The incident allegedly happened on March 4 at a hotel in Mathura where the state’s delegates for the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s national executive convention were staying. The female worker from Mumbai complained to Shelar that Pandey misbehaved with her in his room where many of his male colleagues were having alcohol. She accused Pandey of trying to get physical with her and passing obscene remarks. She further said that Pandey and his friends played porn on their cell phones while banging on her hotel room doors.

Pandey has denied the allegations and demanded a thorough probe. He has alleged a political conspiracy from a rival group within the BJP. The female activist approached Oshiwara police to file a complaint on Wednesday, 26 days after the alleged incident took place.

Oppn and Sena gang up
The issue, however, gave the opposition parties readymade stuff for launching attack on the BJP in the legislature and outside it. Even the BJP’s ruling partner Shiv Sena did not miss the opportunity and expected police action against Pandey. The MNS took out a protest march to demand arrest of Pandey.

The BJP faced the most embarrassing moment in the legislative council when the female MLAs from the Opposition made chairman of the council, Ramraje Nimbalkar take suo motu cognizance of the incident and order action, alleging that the BJP was shielding Pandey by not allowing the police to file a complaint.

Nimbalkar, who incidentally is an NCP nominee, directed the commissioner of state intelligence department (Addl Director General Rashmi Shukla) to record the statement of the woman.

Sena’s Neelam Gorhe led the charge in the council telling the house that she had spoken to the woman. NCP’s Vidya Chavan ridiculed the home minister for not being able to protect a female BJP worker. Later, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the State Commission for Women would deal with the case.

I did no wrong: Shelar
When asked, Shelar told mid-day on Wednesday that he had taken the decision in consultation with party seniors. “I took the decision based on a grave complaint by a female (party) worker. The same was decided after consultation with senior (BJP) leaders,” he said.

BJP wakes up, appoints probe panel
And while the opposition had already ripped his party apart over the issue, the state BJP president Raosaheb Danve thought of appointing a three-member panel led by senior legislator Shobha Fadnavis later on Tuesday. Two more female legislators of the BJP, Manisha Chaudhary and Smita Wagh will be part of the committee.

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