Mumbai, Oct 8: Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde found herself embroiled in a fresh controversy after a purported audio clip appeared in which she is heard "threatening" a priest of the Bhagwangad hill shrine in Ahmednagar district to allow her to make a speech on Dussehra.
Pankaja, in the unverified audio is also heard saying false cases would be lodged against the supporters of Namdev Shastri Maharaj in Parli who opposes her. In the purported conversation she allegedly said she can buy anyone she wishes from the money provided for '25-15' -- 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 is heard saying.
"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 thus do not want anything wrong to happen from our end," she is further heard saying in the purported audio clip.
"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 is heard saying.
Responding to the audio clip, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde said this is "blatant abuse" of power by the minister and that she should be immediately removed from her post.
"The audio we heard of hers is very serious. People responsible for making laws are talking about taking laws into their own hands. She has no right to remain as a minister now," Munde said. He further said she is "cheating" the government by talking about buying people from a scheme meant for people's uplift.
"We hope that at least now the CM (does not continue with his clean chit drama," he said. While Pankaja remained unavailable for a response, her Personal Secretary said she has refused to comment over the issue. Earlier this year, she was under fire for posting selfies during her tour of drought-hit Latur.