Mumbai: Election-related violence in the politically and socially volatile Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra has become the latest flash-point between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena. Even as the state home ministry, held by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, on Tuesday formed a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the violence on Saturday in which two local Shiv Sena functionaries were killed, the party’s ministers in Maharashtra government asked Fadnavis to sack BJP legislator from Ahmednagar Shivaji Kardile who was arrested on Monday in connection with the murders.
On Tuesday, Kardile was remanded to police custody for two days.
A Shiv Sena minister, who did not wish to be named, said the ministers had also asked Fadnavis to withdraw cases filed against nearly 600 Shiv Sena workers in Ahmednagar. The Sena ministers made these demands after the state cabinet meeting. However, a BJP legislator said Fadnavis had no plans to sack Kardile. “Action against Kardile is unlikely at this stage. The chief minister could be more amenable to the demand to withdraw cases against Shiv Sena workers," said the BJP legislator.
On 7 April, Sanjay Kotkar, deputy chief of Shiv Sena’s Ahmednagar unit, and his close associate and Sena worker Vasant Thube, were killed hours after the result of a civic bypoll was announced in Kedgaon village of Ahmednagar district. Vishal Kotkar, a Congress party candidate, won the bypoll by a narrow margin against a Shiv Sena nominee. Within hours after the result was out, Kotkar and Thube who were riding a motorbike, were chased and killed. On Sunday, the police arrested Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA from Ahmednagar city Sangram Jagtap who is the son-in-law of Kardile. The police also booked Sangram Jagtap’s father Arun, who is an NCP Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) and arrested 30 other persons.
Kardile was also with the NCP and joined the BJP just ahead of the 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections. Kardile’s second daughter is married to Sandeep Kotkar, a Congress leader and brother of Vishal Kotkar, who has been booked by the police as well.
A state BJP functionary in Mumbai, who requested anonymity, said the ties between these three families—Kardile, Jagtap, and Kotkar—had “consumed politics in Ahmednagar and resulted in several incidences of crime against the rivals of these families". “It is not about BJP or Congress or NCP. It is about these families who stay close to power and who protect their interests irrespective of who is ruling. People like Kardile are an embarrassment for the BJP because the party fielded him in 2014 polls denying candidature to a loyal worker," said the BJP functionary.
On Sunday, senior Shiv Sena ministers Diwakar Raote and Ramdas Kadam visited Ahmednagar. Talking to reporters, Kadam said the state of law and order in Maharashtra was worse than that of Bihar, in an apparent reference to Fadnavis’s handling of the home ministry.
The Ahmednagar district has a long history of social and political turmoil and there have been a number of caste crimes reported from the district.