'Raut saheb has mentally wired himself to spend some time in ED custody.'
'He knows the risk is huge, but rewards will be bigger if he comes out unscathed.'
With Sanjay Raut's arrest by the Enforcement Directorate early on August 1, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which considers the four-time Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP as the chief wrecker of the saffron alliance in Maharashtra, seems to have drawn first blood.
'Chief destroyer of Saffron alliance'
As Raut spent the night in the ED's detention, presumably after facing a tough and tiring investigation related to alleged money laundering in an alleged land scam in a north Mumbai suburb, the 40 MLAs and 12 MPs who joined the Eknath Shinde camp after his coup against then Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on the intervening night of June 20-21, celebrated.
"We consider Sanjay Raut as the chief destroyer of the alliance with the BJP. Tonight, we will celebrate his fall," one of the 12 Sena MPs who has aligned with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.
"The BJP too believes that Sanjay Raut is the biggest reason for the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance falling apart and widening the political and personal chasm between the top leadership of the two parties," this MP adds.
Raut was always a marked man after the birth of the Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra in November 2019. He is being particularly selected as a showpiece to highlight what the BJP can do to its political opponents.
"Everybody knows Raut's proximity to (Nationalist Congress Party President) Sharad Pawar and the BJP has loathed it all the while. It was Raut, under Pawar's shrewd guidance, who oversaw the alliance between the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress," says Unmesh Gujarathi, a long-time observer of Maharashtra politics.
"Raut and Pawar made the impossible possible. Together they made the MVA experiment succeed for two-and-a-half years and made the BJP a political pariah in Maharashtra. The BJP is only paying back Raut in kind," Gujarathi adds.
'A huge risk-taker'
Raut's nature, according to Gujarathi, is such that he likes to enter each and every (political) minefield and take huge political risks.
"Naturally, he reaps the most rewards when his plans work out. In that sense, he knows his opportunities, his risks and rewards well," he says.
It is for such risk-taking abilities that Raut was rewarded four times with a Rajya Sabha seat, claims another political analyst from Maharashtra.
"Who gets repeatedly rewarded for their loyalties? Even moneybags don't get such opportunities and become Rajya Sabha members for four consecutive terms (Raut was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2004, then in 2010, 2016 and 2022)," he says.
"He doesn't come from a rich family or didn't have many godfathers when he joined Samana (the Shiv Sena's daily newspaper) and the Shiv Sena. He knows to take decisive yet calculated risks and has gotten rewarded well for his efforts," adds Gujarathi.
Another of Raut's critics and one of the 9 MLAs and minister in then Uddhav Thackeray government, who drove with Eknath Shinde to Surat on the intervening night of June 20-21, reveals how upset Raut was when he could not get his brother Sunil Raut a place in the ministry.
"When the MVA came to power Raut had pushed for his brother (the Shiv Sena MLA from Vikhroli, north east Mumbai) as a ministerial candidate. Despite being one of the top five architects of the MVA, Raut kept his patience when his brother didn't find a place in the government. He digested this rejection quietly for he knew his fourth term as the Rajya Sabha MP could have been jeopardised if he had publicly, or even privately, expressed his displeasure," reveals the MLA who again expects a ministerial berth whenever the Shinde government goes for expansion.
"Look at the fact that none but Raut took on the Enforcement Directorate and the Modi-Shah duo with the zeal of an evangelist (former minister Nawab Malik from the NCP is an exception and is in jail in a money laundering case lodged by the ED). The other Sena leaders or people like Balasaheb Thorat (revenue minister in the MVA government) from the Congress or Ajit Pawar (deputy CM and finance minister) from the NCP didn't go overboard in their attack on the BJP's Delhi leadership and the ED," adds Gujarathi.
"Raut knew no other leader from the MVA combine had as much guts as him to take on the mighty BJP leadership (Modi and Shah). He took full advantage, launched a fusillade against the ED, Modi and Shah and got rewarded with a fourth-term in the House of Seniors," says the political analyst.
'Huge risks, bigger rewards'
"Getting the fourth term was quite a task for Raut with many Sena leaders openly expressing their reservations about his candidature and so he went full throttle against all the central investigative agencies and even sharpened his attacks on Modi and Shah," alleges the Maharashtra MP.
"Uddhavji very well knows the importance of having such a firebrand leader in the Sena whose pugnacity matches his networking skills in Delhi in equal measure. So, he always let Raut do all the bad-mouthing of Modi-Shah," the MP adds.
"Not just after 2019, but Raut was let loose on the Modi-Shah duo during the October 2014 assembly election which the two saffron allies fought against each other even while winning 41 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats in alliance just four months ago which catapulted Narendra Modi into the prime minister's seat," the MP points out.
"It is said Modiji never forgets and never ever forgives. Raut is getting paid back now," says the MP.
Except Nana Patole -- the Maharashtra Congress chief who was once a BJP MP who fell out with Modi over the issues of farmers -- nobody from the MVA spoke openly against Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah.
"They (NCP and Congress leaders) know that the CBI, ED, etc have a mountain of files against many of their senior leaders and so they think twice before taking the cudgels against the top BJP leadership," says the Sena MLA.
"Rautsaheb knows he will become a hero if he manages to come out of the ED dragnet without any harm. He could become a bigger hero if the ED arrests him and files criminal charges against him. Raut knows his risks and rewards quite well," says another Shiv Sena MLA from the Shinde camp, who worked closely with Raut for his fourth Rajya Sabha victory.
"So far as I know Raut saheb, he has mentally wired himself to spend some time in ED custody," the MLA says. "He knows the risk is huge, but rewards will be bigger if he comes out unscathed."