A middle class family, an old building, a kidnapping, a deadly gangster, political bigwigs, a high profile press conference, an encounter and, a traumatized widow fighting for justice. These may be the perfect ingredients for a blockbuster Bollywood potboiler. But these characters and events aren’t from a Bollywood film but part of a scandal that rocked, plagued and almost brought the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliance to its knees in Maharashtra.
In 1996, Chhagan Bhujbal, Leader of Opposition, in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, held a press conference at his residence and introduced Sheila Kini, the widow of Ramesh Kini. Bhujbal claimed that he had rescued her and went on to level sensational allegations against the state’s biggest political family.
The Kinis owned a flat in Laxmi Nivas, an old building in the suburb of Matunga. The landlord Suman Shah and Raj Thackeray, who was a rising star in the Shiv Sena and owned a construction firm named Matoshree Realtors, wanted the Kinis to vacate their flat so that they could go ahead with their redevelopment plans. Bhujbal alleged that when the Kinis refused to toe the line, Raj Thackeray summoned Ramesh Kini to the Saamana office on multiple occasions to ‘persuade’ him to let go of the flat. On July 23, 1996, Ramesh left home saying he was going to the Saamana office. A day later, his body was found in a cinema hall in Pune.