Sanjay Raut at Uddhav Thackeray’s home, paying respects to Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
A day after his release from jail after over three months, Team Thackeray’s Sanjay Raut today had praise for Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP leader seen as a power behind Sena mutineer Eknath Shinde replacing Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister in June.
“There is a new government in Maharashtra, which has taken some good decisions too. We do not oppose for the sake of opposing,” he said, “Devendra Fadnavis has taken some good decisions. I read the newspaper whenever possible (in jail). Decisions such as housing for the poor deserve praise.”
He also mentioned the decision to give more rights to MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority). “Our government had taken away those rights. I did not like that. Mr Fadnavis has done well to restore those.”
He told reporters that he would meet with Mr Fadnavis “regarding some public work”.
“I will also meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and tell them what is happening to me. I had read that Devendra Fadnavis said political bitterness should be reduced. I welcome his statement,” he added.
Though his praise was limited to Mr Fadnavis — he did not name Eknath Shinde — this may be seen as a softening of rhetoric by Mr Raut.
A firebrand journalist-politician who is a member of the Lok Sabha, he had defended the Thackerays aggressively when Eknath Shinde broke away five months ago.
Having got bail yesterday after 103 days in jail, Mr Raut was talking to the media before he met with Uddhav Thackeray at his home. He said he would also meet with Sharad Pawar, chief of Team Thackeray’s ally NCP. “I thought people would forget me in three months. But I got a lot of calls since my release yesterday. Uddhav ji was regularly in touch with me. Pawar sahib also spoke to me on the phone.”
He refused to speak much on the court order, which said his arrest was wrong as the probe agency ED has not given any evidence of money laundering. He is accused of a scam in a housing project.
“The order has sent an encouraging sign across the country. I will not comment on that or on the ED. Nor will I speak on the architects of this controversy. If my incarceration made them happy, let that be so,” he said.
“In my heart I hold no grudge against anyone ever. My family suffered a lot. But such is life. We are in politics,” he added. He refused to “blame the system as a whole”.
“I do not blame any central probe agency either. When they get a chance to do good things, they should,” he said, though later, at Uddhav Thackeray’s home, he made a stern comment: “The question is, are probe agencies pets of the for state and central governments? There is an argument for closing down the ED altogether.”
Earlier, without naming anyone, he slammed “the kind of political vendetta that was not seen even when the country was enslaved for 150 years”. About his comments after release that his unfair arrest was “on orders from Delhi”, he said, “No one should be arrested on false charges; it’s not just about me.”
On his time in jail, he said, “I was unwell in jail, and I am unwell now. Jail is no happy time. One has to talk to the walls. All connection with the outside world is lost. In loneliness, one has to talk to the walls.”
He said he took inspiration from VD Savarkar, Bal Gangadhar, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee who’d spent years in jail. “Whoever is in politics has to go to jail at some point, I told myself.”
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