Bandiwadekar had organised protests and spoke in solidarity with Vaibhav Raut, a member of the Sanatan Sanstha, after he was arrested last year by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad. Sanatan Sanstha members have been accused of four bombings in Vashi, Thane and Panvel and in Goa. They are allegedly involved in the murders of rationalists and intellectuals.
Raut’s home in Nalasopara on the outskirts of Mumbai was raided by the ATS on August last year and a huge cache of explosives and detonators had been recovered. In the protests following his arrest, the Congress leader had claimed that Raut was being made a scapegoat by the police that was foisting a false case on him. But the Congress is backing its candidate and claiming Bandiwadekar ‘does not support the Sanatan Sanstha’.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant admitted that the candidate did participate in a protest against Vaibhav Raut’s arrest. However, a statement by Sawant claimed that, “Since there was pressure from the community (the Bhandari community) considering rumours of presumable prejudicial action by the police, as the president of Bhandari Samaj, he had gone to inquire.”
The Congress explanation is not being accepted by its own ally, the Nationalist Congress Party. NCP leader Jitendra Awhad told reporters that he has personally conveyed to the Congress on the need to select the right kind of candidates.