The state assembly and the police force are locked in a frenzy of defence and offence after API Sachin Suryavanshi fined Bahujan Vikas Akhadi MLA Kshitij Thakur for speeding on the sea link and the subsequent thrashing he received by MLAs in Vidhan Bhavan on Tuesday. The high-octane chain of events saw the Nallasopara MLAand his assembly colleagues Ram Kadam (MNS), Rajan Salvi (Shiv Sena), Jaikumar Rawal (BJP) and Pradip Jaiswal (Independent) facing suspension.
However, there are others behind the curtain not directly named in the event, but who played a crucial role in the aftermath of the speeding incident.
Notably, all the legislators involved in the incident are first-timers in the assembly, and their involvement has put a question mark on their political future.
They needed proper guidance to be steered through the upheaval, said members of both houses of the state legislature. And they found that mentorship in deputy chairman of state council Vasant Davkhare, Congress MLA Sunil Kedar, BJP MLA Girish Bapat and Ministers Harshwardhan Patil and Narayan Rane.
It is said soon after the sea link incident, Thakur narrated the incident to Davkhare. Though Thakur is a member of the lower house, the issue was raised in the state council, which saw an adjournment over the matter. Home Minister R R Patil was summoned to clarify his department’s view. Patil made an apology and announced that API Suryavanshi would be asked to go on leave.
Now, many are saying the incident would not have occurred had Davkhare not called the API to Vidhan Bhavan, where he was eventually beaten. Davkhare has written to the speaker, chairman, CM, deputy CM and opposition leaders of both the houses explaining his position. According to him, he being the MLC from Thane was helping an MLA from his district.
He had summoned the API to seek clarification on the alleged exchange of words with Thakur and his intention was pure, he said.
This Congress MLA from Savner is engaged in a tiff with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for the past two years. He and a group of MLAs backing him are known to be loyals of ex-CM Ashok Chavan. During the crisis, Kedar met the CM twice and asked him to take a lead in defusing it.
But the MLAs supporting Kedar allege Chavan did not take any lead and was oblivious to the incident. They had even staged a walkout after Speaker Dilip Walse Patil apologised over the incident. The group apparently threatened to boycott the budget presentation. It also registered its protest with senior leaders in Delhi over the CM’s alleged passivity and failure to suspend the API.
The senior BJP MLA from Pune fought for the MLAs and asked why ruling party MLAs were missing from the suspension list. He warned of non-cooperation by the opposition parties if the state did not consider their demands.
The suspended MLAs relied on him, saying there was no one else to fight for them. Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse could not argue due to his position.
Bapat also demanded for delaying the arrests of the accused MLAs, since airing of news of the MLAs being arrested from Vidhan Bhavan on TV channels would damage their political career. According to him, the ruling party saved its MLAs and let opposition MLAs who have won elections for the first time bear the brunt.
The parliamentary affairs minister had a tough time negotiating between the speaker, the CM and the opposition leaders. He finally moved the proposal to suspend five MLAs. Angry, the MLAs who were not present when the API was beaten up knocked his door, asking him to speak to senior officials to prevent arrests.
The industries minister emerged a hero in the crisis. Although at home due to an illness, he spoke out for the MLAs, reminding the house of the prestige of the legislature and argued for the privilege motion after watching the events on TV, said one of his colleagues. He received a huge backing from ruling and opposition benches.
A Congress MLA from Vidarbha said, “Indira Gandhi was referred to as the only man in her cabinet. Today, we can say you are the only man in the state cabinet.”