If Congress did it, why can't we?

Updated: 02 October, 2018 08:27 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

BJP government withdraws criminal cases against controversial right-wing activist Sambhaji Bhide and BJP, Sena, Congress and NCP politicians, cites GR issued during Congress regime

The dropped cases include one related to an agitation that Sambhaji Bhide had led against Hindi movie 'Jodha Akbar' in 2008
The dropped cases include one related to an agitation that Sambhaji Bhide had led against Hindi movie 'Jodha Akbar' in 2008

Controversial right-wing activist Sambhaji Bhide, who is one of the accused in the Koregaon-Bhima caste riots case, and several BJP-Shiv Sena politicians, will not face trials in some police cases that were registered against them, as they have been withdrawn.

The dropped cases are related to an agitation that Bhide had led against Hindi movie 'Jodha Akbar' in 2008, and another against an artist's depiction of the death of Maratha king, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 2009.

The cases against others are mostly about political agitations in which they were charged for rioting and damaging public property. One of the leaders who will benefit because of the dropped cases, is MP Raju Shetti. Former Pune Congress chief Abhay Chhajed, his supporters, and NCP's Kiran Pawaskar will also benefit.

The information came to light through a series of right to information queries by Mumbai-based activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh. According to him, three cases against Bhide and suspected members of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan were withdrawn in 2017. Shaikh said Bhide wouldn't have dared instigate the Koregaon- Bhima riots if the cases against him were not withdrawn.

Not illegal: BJP government
The BJP government dismissed a charge of favouritism. Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the cases were withdrawn in accordance with a government resolution (GR) issued by the previous Congress-NCP government. "The GR says that cases of protests and movements initiated for public can be withdrawn," he said, adding that a similar decision was taken by the previous governments.

The state cabinet had asked Mungantiwar to head a committee to scrutinise cases that were fit for withdrawal. Minister of state for home, Deepak Kesarkar, said, "The cases you are talking about were withdrawn last year. The cases that were registered this year are being probed."

Opposition leader in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil lambasted the government, saying that the BJP should now honour Bhide with the Bharat Ratna and Maharashtra Bhushan. "We have repeatedly seen the affection that the BJP government has for Bhide. Withdrawing criminal cases against him is very surprising and proves that the BJP stands behind him very firmly," he said. He said it was apparent the BJP government was out to bail Bhide in the Koregaon-Bhima riots. "The government's actions vindicate our stand," he said.

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First Published: 02 October, 2018 08:21 IST

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