With pressure mounting on the Maha Vikas Aghadi government over the death of 22-year old Pooja Chavan, under fire forest minister Sanjay Rathod has finally resigned from the Maharashtra cabinet. Sanjay Rathod, 50, is a fourth term Shiv Sena legislator from Digras Assembly Constituency in the Yavatmal district. Rathod is the only Sena minister from the Vidarbha region in the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. In the previous Devendra Fandnavis-led government, Rathod was Minister of State for Revenue, for five years. Rathod, who belongs to the Banjara community, is known for his aggressive political style, and has a large following in the Banjara community. Rathod did not have a political background, and climbed the ladder in the party from a grassroots leader to district president and now to cabinet minister.
Pooja Chavan, a resident of Parli Vaijanath in Beed district, died after falling from the balcony of an apartment in Pune’s Hadapsar area on February 8. A TikTok star, she, too, was from the Banjara community, and active in community work. She was seen in a few political campaigns. Soon after the death of Chavan, several photos and audio clips surfaced purportedly linking Rathod to her. After her death, Rathod went missing for two weeks, made no public appearance and was not seen in his office in Mantralaya. His absence and his silence increased misgivings about his links to the woman, an aspiring model. It also increased troubles for the MVA government and his party with the BJP alleging that the Shiv Sena was sheltering the minister, and demanding a free and fair investigation into her death.