Union Minister for Small Scale Industries Mahabir Prasad is facing a murder charge after a case was registered against him and others at the Gaghan police station of Gorakhpur district late on Tuesday night.
Prasad,a four-time MP and three-time president of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh,is the only prominent Dalit face of the party in the state.
The FIR was lodged after the wife of the deceased appealed to the Allahabad High Court.
Gorakhpur DIG Aditya Mishra said: “Mahabir Prasad is alleged to have hatched a conspiracy for the murder of Ram Pragat of Ujjarpar village on January 28,2008. The victim’s wife has alleged that a gram pradhan,Rajesh Singh,had an altercation with her husband two days before the murder over a land dispute. She has also alleged that Rajesh is a close associate of the minister and the murder took place at the instance of Mahabir Prasad.”
Prasad belongs to the same village as the victim.
While a chargesheet was filed in the case,it recorded Pragat’s death as a road accident,saying he had been hit by a jeep,and made no mention of either the gram pradhan or others. The driver of the jeep has been arrested.
Gaghan Police Station in-charge Virendra Yadav said: “The complainant,Subhawati Devi,has alleged in an FIR that Rajesh Singh,his associate Gauri Shanker Gupta and some unidentified persons hit her husband,causing his death. She also alleged that Prasad sheltered Rajesh and the minister was involved in the murder conspiracy too.”
Prasad,who was a primary schoolteacher in Ujjarpar in the parliamentary constituency of Baasgaon in Gorakhpur,doesn’t have any other criminal case registered against him.
While he won his first Assembly polls in 1974,in 1980,he shifted to the Lok Sabha. He has won from Baasgaon four times,a commendable feat considering the seat is dominated by Thakurs. Others say his caste has gone a long way in cementing his position as he is one of only two Dalit leaders the Congess has in Uttar Pradesh,the other being Mata Prasad who maintains a relatively low profile.
In contrast,this is the third time Prasad is holding a portfolio at the Centre. He was the Union minister of state for Railways from 1988 to 1989 and then the minister of state for Mines and Steel for six months in 1989. He has also been the governor of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
While other leaders are dreading the effect of delimitation in the coming elections,Prasad once again sits safe. There is no change in his constituency,which has been a reserved seat since Independence.