Rakesh Kumar Rastogi, who was found strangulated to death Saturday morning in Baheri area of Bareilly district, was the latest BJP leader to come under attack in Uttar Pradesh over less than 10 days.
In that time, two other BJP leaders have been killed, a BJP MP has been attacked and the mother of another senior BJP leader has been shot at. In all the incidents, the BJP has accused leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP).
On June 12, a BJP delegation met Governor B L Joshi seeking action against the state government, accusing that party workers were being attacked at the behest of SP leaders. The BJP has formed a panel of state leaders to look into such attacks and to hold protests.
Party spokesperson Chandra Mohan said the attacks were “an attempt to discourage BJP workers in UP”, given the party’s unprecedented performance in the state in the recent polls.
Denying the BJP charge, SP spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said, “These allegations are baseless and politically motivated.”
The five attacks since June 7:
* Vijay Pandit: In-charge of Dadri area; killed June 7
The 37-year-old was shot by three motorcycle-borne assailants in Dadri area near Delhi. A pro-Hindutva face of the party, Pandit was election in-charge for the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Gautam Buddh Nagar. Pandit’s wife Geeta is chairman of the Dadri Municipal Corporation and is also associated with the BJP. Geeta has claimed her husband’s death was linked to political rivalry between him and local SP leader Narendra Bhati. Pandit’s murder triggered widespread violence in the area. He had led various protests in the district against alleged atrocities on Hindus.
* Om Vir Singh: Co-convener of Panchayati Raj cell, Muzaffarnagar district; killed June 10
The 42-year-old was co-convener of the BJP’s Panchayati Raj cell for Muzaffarnagar district. He was gunned down by unidentified assailants on June 10 when on his way to native village Nangla Khepri. Singh had joined the BJP after retiring from the Army in 2006, and was an active member of the party. BJP Muzaffarnagar president Satyapal Pal admitted there may not be a political reason behind the murder but accused the SP government of failing to protect a common man.
* Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti: BJP MP from Fatehpur; attacked June 14
She and her supporters were attacked at a private function she had gone to attend in Civil Lines area of Fatehpur district on Saturday night. While police reports called accused Bhanu Singh Patel a former worker of the youth wing of the BJP, Jyoti denied this, saying Patel was an SP worker and the relative of former SP MP from Fatehpur Rakesh Sachan. She told The Indian Express that local SP workers had been spreading rumours that a by-election was going to be held in the Fatehpur Lok Sabha seat soon. “They attacked because they wanted to eliminate me.”
*Rakesh Kumar Rastogi: vice-president of Kichha block in Uttarakhand; body found on June 14
Rastogi (40), whose body was found inside a car in Baheri area of Bareilly district, was vice-president of the BJP’s Kichha block in Udham Singh Nagar of Uttarakhand. An architect, he was also involved in the construction business as contractor. BJP Kichha MLA Rajesh Shukla told the Indian Express that Rastogi was not a very active worker but had been associated with the party for a long time. “Prime facie, political rivalry could not be a reason for the murder because he was not very active politically. Involvement of the Samajwadi Party could not be claimed because that party has no significance in Uttarakhand,” Shukla said. It’s not known why Rastogi had come to Bareilly. Police also suspect Rastogi may have been killed in Uttarakhand and the body dumped in Bareilly.
*Devendra Sharma: BJP general secretary for Braj region; attacked June 15
Some unidentified youths entered the house of Sharma in Govind Nagar area of Mathura district on Saturday at 2 am and opened fire on her mother Susheela (63), who was sleeping in the varandah. A bullet passed through her left hand but she is now stable. Devendra, who was in the ABVP for 18 years, said he had no rivalry with leaders of any political party and so he denied any political reason behind the attack. Sharma had contested the Assembly elections on a BJP ticket from Mathura in 2012 but lost.