Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde found herself embroiled in a fresh controversy after an audio clip went viral where she is heard threatening a priest of Bhagwangad hill shrine in Ahmednagar for denying her permission to deliver a speech at an annual celebration on Dussehra.
In the unverified audio clip, Pankaja is heard saying that false cases will be registered against the supporters of Namdev Shastri Maharaj, the temple priest. She also allegedly said that she can “buy" off anyone she wishes from the money provided for '25-15′. 25 -15 is a scheme meant for funding small works in rural areas.
“I have told my people that we do not want to fight until the 11th (October). I can buy you (people) out but don't want to do that. Whatever I have given you in the past I have given with you asking. You remember me giving you money out of 25-15? Now I won't give you money," Pankaja was heard saying.
She was heard saying, “We are also not simple. Our men can beat people up in Parli and get false cases lodged against them and forced to leave the place." She further added, “What is to be done with Namdev Shastri is a matter to be thought about in the future. We have to get the Dussehra celebrations done and so do not want anyth- ing wrong to happen from our end."
According to sources, Namdev Maharaj enjoyed close relations with Munde's father and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, but reportedly had fallen out with her after Munde's death.Meanwhile the opposition has demanded Pankaja's resignation over the audio clip. Maharashtra Congress has demanded that the issue should be probed. “This is a clear misuse of ministerial position and a law and order situation. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should remove Pankaja from his Cabinet," said Sachin Sawant, spokesperson, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee.
Reacting on the clip, leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Dhananjay Munde said that it is a blatant misuse of power. Dhananjay, a Nationalist Congress Party leader, added that Pankaja should be removed from her post. “We heard the audio of hers and it is a very serious issue. People who are responsible for making laws are talking about taking laws into their own hands. She has no right to remain as a minister now," said Dhananjay, who is Pankaja's cousin.