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Shinde govt under fire over killing of Sena (UBT) leader; oppn says Fadnavis must go

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Mumbai, Feb 9 (PTI) The Eknath Shinde government in Maharashtra came under opposition fire on Friday over the murder of a Shiv Sena (UBT) leader during a ‘Facebook Live’ session and faced calls for the resignation of Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis as the Mumbai crime branch launched a probe into the sensational killing and made the first arrest.

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The killing of former Shiv Sena (UBT) corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar (40) on Thursday in Mumbai by local businessman and `social worker' Mauris Noronha came days after a functionary of the ruling Shiv Sena was shot at inside a police station by a BJP legislator in adjoining Thane district as the opposition alleged breakdown in law and order in Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena (UBT) led by Uddhav Thackeray demanded the dismissal of the Shinde government citing deteriorating law and order, while its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party ( Sharadchandra Pawar) and the Congress sought the resignation of deputy CM Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio.

Opposition parties also slammed Fadnavis for his apparent off the cuff remarks over the killing of Ghosalkar.

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Replying to a query during a media interaction, Fadnavis termed the opposition’s charges on the law and order situation as politically motivated.

“This (Ghosalkar’s killing) is a serious incident, but even if a dog were to come under a vehicle, they (opposition) will seek the home minister’s resignation,” said Fadnavis, a senior BJP leader.

State Congress president Nana Patole said the remarks by Fadnavis were irresponsible.

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Mumbai Congress president Varsha Gaikwad said, “The law and order situation in the state is in a shambles and Fadnavis should resign owing moral responsibility." On the government side, state Industries Minister Uday Samant condemned the shocking murder of Ghosalkar but attributed it to the ongoing “gang war” within the Uddhav Thackeray-led party, while Deputy CM Ajit Pawar described the killing as “wrong and unfortunate” and assured a detailed probe to find out what led to the crime.

A viral video of the shooting, which took place at assailant Noronha's office in northern suburb of Borivali (West), showed Ghosalkar being shot in the abdomen and shoulder during a ‘Facebook Live’ session. Within moments, Noronha also killed himself. Both were locked in a dispute.

Clyde Crasto, national spokesperson of the NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar), said the law and order situation has gone out of control in Maharashtra.

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“Be it Nagpur where ‘goondas’ are having their say, Pune where the ‘koita gang’ is creating havoc every now and then, Ulhasnagar where an MLA fearlessly uses a police station to settle his score with an enemy and now, a young man, ex-corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar, was shot dead by a criminal without fear of law,” Crasto said.

“All this proves that Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis has failed in his job and must resign immediately,” Crasto said.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut alleged the ruling party MPs and MLAs were threatening policemen.

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Raut also targeted Fadnavis and demanded his resignation over the law and order situation.

"This (twin attacks) reflects failure of (state) Home Minister (Fadnavis). Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (Union Home minister) Amit Shah are responsible for imposing this government on us," the Rajya Sabha member remarked.

"The chief minister should be sacked and President's Rule must be imposed in the state. Dismiss the government if you have the courage," said Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP.

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Reacting to the killing of the former corporator, deputy CM Ajit Pawar told reporters in Pune, “It was wrong and unfortunate. Such incidents should not happen. The conversation between the two (Ghosalkar and Noronha) during the live-streaming seemed friendly. Looking at the conversation, their relationship also looked cordial.” “A detailed investigation needs to be done to find out what exactly happened between them,” he said.

Ajit Pawar said the opposition is trying to defame the government over the incident. “They have got a chance (to target the government) now. But the background of the incident needs to be probed. It needs to be checked what exactly had happened (between them) in the past,” he said.

State minister Samant, addressing a news conference in Mumbai, said nobody should lose their life in this manner, even if they are one’s political rivals, and urged for collaborative efforts to maintain peace in the state.

He claimed there was a deeper connection between Noronha and top Sena (UBT) leaders.

Referring to the conversation between Ghosalkar and Noronha during the live event, Samant said, “When two leaders of the (Sena) UBT are discussing their plans, how does Shiv Sena come into the picture?” Meanwhile, the Mumbai police's crime branch on Friday evening arrested accused Noronha's bodyguard, Amarendra Mishra, whose pistol was allegedly used in the murder of Ghosalkar, under the Arms Act, an official said.

The crime branch has formed two teams to probe into the sensational murder.

One team headed by an inspector-rank official is investigating the murder of Ghosalkar, while the second one is probing into the “accidental” death of his killer Noronha, an official said.

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray paid his last respects to Ghosalkar. Thackeray, along with his wife and son Aaditya, a former minister, visited the residence of Ghosalkar at Dahisar in north Mumbai.

Ghosalkar was cremated in the presence of Sena (UBT) leaders. PTI DC PR COR NR KRK NP VT RSY

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