UPA minister faces murder charge in UP

Union Minister for Small Scale Industries Mahabir Prasad is facing a murder charge after a case was registered against him at the Gaghan police station of Gorakhpur district late on Tuesday night.

Written by Alka Pande | Lucknow | Published: February 12, 2009 2:42:16 am

Mahabir Prasad is the Cong’s only prominent Dalit face in state

Union Minister for Small Scale Industries Mahabir Prasad is facing a murder charge after a case was registered against him 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,Ram Pragat,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,a resident of Ujjarpar village,on January 28,2008”.

Pragat’s wife Subhawati Devi had alleged that the murder took place over a land dispute and a gram pradhan,Rajesh Singh,had an altercation with him two days before the murder. Rajesh Singh,according to her,had grabbed a plot her husband owned and had been threatening him so he would withdraw his claim. Rajesh and his men had assaulted Ram Pragat over the matter merely two days before the murder,she alleged.

“She has also alleged that Rajesh is a close associate of Mahabir Prasad and the murder took place at the minister’s behest,” said Mishra.

Prasad (69) belongs to the same village as the victim.

A chargesheet filed in the case recorded Pragat’s death as a road accident — he had been “hit by a jeep” it said — 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: “Subhawati Devi 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 was involved in the murder conspiracy too.”

Circle Officer of Bansgaon Rajendra Singh,who is investigating the case,visited the complainant’s village on Wednesday and recorded statements of 14 people,including Subhawati. According to Singh,Subhawati told him that the jeep which hit Pragat belonged to Prasad,but there was no mention of the jeep’s owner in police documents related to the road accident case. The Gorakhpur DIG,however,said the jeep belongs to Prasad and was being used by the college run by his family. 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.

Calling the case “a political conspiracy” on Wednesday,Prasad parried questions on whether he would resign over the case. Asked if it would be morally correct for him to quit,he said: “What is moral about it? We have been winning elections and will do so in the future.”

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 is Mata Prasad,who maintains a relatively low profile.Prasad,in contrast,is holding a portfolio at the Centre for the third time. 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.

Cong stands by Prasad
The Congress,however,has defended Prasad. AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari,however,said the party and the government have called for relevant documents of the case. “As far as we know,the FIR was registered following a court order. When the incident happened,the minister was not in that village,” Tewari said.

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