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In Maharashtra political fight, Axis Bank accounts could get the axe

MUMBAI: Days after Twitter exchanges between the Shiv Sena and Amruta Fadnavis, the wife of former CM Devendra Fadnavis who is a senior executive with Axis Bank, the lender seems set to lose the accounts of some Sena-controlled municipalities and possibly even that of Maharashtra Police.

Sena leaders, including spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, told ET that the shifting out of accounts from Axis Bank or discussions around a shift are to do with finding “safer” public sector banks. A spokesperson for the BJP, however, claimed vengeance on part of the former ally.

“The accounts were bagged by Axis Bank much before I married Devendra… during the tenure of Congress-NCP regime. Private banks are also Indian banks, and provide superior services. The government should think rationally. By doing this (shifting the accounts), they (the government) are trying to target Devendra and me,” Amruta Fadnavis told ET.

The Sena-dominated Thane Municipal Corporation has said it will shift its salary accounts from Axis Bank to a nationalised lender. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) mayor Kishori Pednekar Friday said she will hold discussions with officials on Monday on whether to keep the account of Mumbai Fire Brigade with Axis Bank.

To be sure, Axis Bank is a scheduled commercial bank regulated by the RBI in the same manner as nationalised lenders.

Sena, Amruta in Twitter joust
On Friday, BMC mayor Pednekar said she did not want a “situation like Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank… we don’t mind getting lower interest rates, but we want the money to be safe.”

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government — run by Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress — has indicated a rethink on Axis Bank handling the account of Maharashtra Police, which sees transactions worth Rs 11,000 crore annually. State government officials said they would prefer a nationalised bank.

Amruta Fadnavis, who is vice president and corporate head (west India) at Axis Bank, has been criticising the Sena on Twitter. On December 8, she tweeted, “Hypocrisy is a disease! Get well soon @ShivSena! Tree cutting — at your convenience or allowing tree cutting only when you earn commission.”

‘Hypocrisy is a disease ! Get well soon @ShivSena ‘ ! Tree cutting – at ur convenience or allowing tree cutting onl…

— AMRUTA FADNAVIS (@fadnavis_amruta) 1575793975000

Her tweet is in the context of local controversies around cutting trees in Aarey and Aurangabad. After assuming power in the state, the Sena stopped chopping of trees for a Mumbai Metro project, but there were reports that trees may be cut in Aurangabad for a memorial to Bal Thackeray. Responding to Fadnavis, Sena leaders such as Priyanka Chaturvedi had said the charges were “wrong”, and that there were no plans to cut trees for the memorial.

The Sena abandoned its longstanding ally BJP to form a government with the Congress and NCP. The BJP-Sena prepoll alliance had won a majority in the state elections, but the arrangement collapsed over Sena’s demands around chief ministership.

On December 22, responding to her husband’s tweet criticising Rahul Gandhi (the Congress leader had said, “I am not Savarkar”), Amruta Fadnavis tweeted: “One cannot be a Thackeray just by putting … a Thackeray surname.”

Very true @Dev_Fadnavis ji ! One cannot be a ‘Thackeray’ also by just putting ‘Thackrey’ surname after his name ! O…

— AMRUTA FADNAVIS (@fadnavis_amruta) 1577032867000

Shiv Sainiks had held a demonstration against Fadnavis’ tweet, who then tweeted — tagging chief minister Uddhav Thackeray — “You don’t lead people by hitting people over head, that’s assault — not leadership.”

Amruta Fadnavis told ET on Friday that she will continue to raise issues of public interest. “Devendra never targeted people. This is against freedom of speech, and both I and Devendra will not be silenced. If I feel there is something wrong or some decision impacts the people wrongly, then I will raise the issue,” she said.

Keshav Upadhye, BJP’s spokesperson for Maharashtra, called the plan to shift bank accounts from Axis Bank “political vengeance”. “Where are all the people who used to talk about freedom of speech? A person does not have the freedom to state his or her opinion without repercussions?”

Sena’s Chaturvedi said it was the “policy for governments to operate accounts in nationalised banks” and that the Devendra Fadnavisrun BJP government had “changed the practice”.

Source: Economic Times