Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP and a key leader of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena, visited the Siddhivinayak Temple here to ask for Lord Ganesh’s blessings shortly after his release from Arthur Road prison on Wednesday night.
Raut was joined by his brother, MLA Sunil Raut, and party leaders during his visit to the iconic temple at Prabhadevi in central Mumbai.
The MP also visited a Hanuman temple in south Mumbai and the Bal Thackeray monument in Shivaji Park.
Raut was released from prison around 6:50 pm but was unable to reach his home in Nahur in north-east Mumbai until around 10:30 pm.
The high-ranking politician’s bungalow was decorated with lights and hundreds of his supporters gathered outside his home to welcome him as they set off fireworks and played DJ music.
The 60-year-old Rajya Sabha member was arrested on August 1 by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to a housing project in a suburb of Goregaon.
As a sign of their strength, hundreds of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) workers had gathered outside Arthur Road prison in central Mumbai carrying saffron flags.
There was a long line of party workers’ cars waiting for Raut’s release.
The moment he got out of prison, where he was incarcerated for more than three months, Raut was greeted with a splash by activists from Shiv Sena (UBT). They raised slogans in favor of both Raut and party chief Uddhav Thackeray, smeared ‘gulal’ on each other and beat drums furiously.
The Rajya MP, who had a saffron stole draped around his neck, abdicated and saluted the people gathered outside the prison.
Speaking to reporters, Raut said the Shiv Sena faction led by Uddhav Thackeray was the “real” party founded by the late Bal Thackeray.
The only Sena that is real is the one that was founded by Balasaheb Thackeray and is now run by Uddhav Thackeray, he said.
He said the current political scenario in the state, where an uprising in the Shiv Sena led to a change of government in June, was temporary.
The saffron flag that has been flying on the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) for 30 to 35 years will continue to exist. Those who dare to touch it will be reduced to ashes with the ‘maashal’ (symbol of the burning torch of the Uddhav Thackeray faction).
Raut said he spoke to party chief Uddhav Thackeray. He felt that Thackeray’s voice had grown heavy during the conversation, indicating that the two had become emotional.
On the way to the temple, party workers waited at every possible intersection for his procession, which consisted of motorcycles and private vehicles.
Commenting on Raut’s release, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and former minister Aaditya Thackeray said: “The tiger is back. He was put in jail, but he didn’t flee the way 40 “traitors” fled (a reference to rebel Sena MLAs).”
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