Updated: February 22, 2017 12:50:46 pm
On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned Gayatri Prasad Prajapati as a living example of the breakdown of law and order in Uttar Pradesh. The next day, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav did not share the dais with him — and the UP Minister broke down while protesting allegations of rape. Who is this politician against whom the Supreme Court has ordered action, and what is the case against him?
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Prajapati is a first-time MLA who defeated the Congress’s Ameeta Sinh, a local heavyweight, at the Amethi seat, which is part of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency of the same name. The victory in the 2012 elections was followed by a meteoric rise for Prajapati, who comes from a poor family but grew in local politics after becoming a contractor.
In February 2013, Prajapati was inducted into Akhilesh Yadav’s ministry as Minister of State for Irrigation and, in July, given independent charge of mining. In January 2014, he was promoted to Cabinet Minister as the SP tried to reach out to the backward Kumhar caste which has good numbers across the state but remains under-represented in politics. Prajapati soon came to known as someone close to Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family.
In July 2015, an IG-rank IPS officer named Amitabh Thakur sought the filing of an FIR against Mulayam, alleging that he had been threatened by the then SP chief over the phone. Thakur claimed Mulayam was angry because his activist wife, Nutan Thakur, had launched a campaign against Prajapati.
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Three complaints were filed with the state Lokayukta against Prajapati in 2015, accusing him of amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income and sheltering illegal mining in the state. However, the inquiries were closed for lack of evidence.
In September 2016, a few weeks after Allahabad High Court asked the CBI for a report on whether illegal mining was being carried out in the state with the collusion of authorities, Akhilesh sacked Prajapati from the Cabinet. He was, however, re-inducted soon afterward, as it became clear that the sacking was the fallout of the feud in the SP’s first family, and that Mulayam was in favour of Prajapati’s return.
The alleged rape
A woman from Bundelkhand has alleged that Prajapati, along with his associates Ashok Tiwari, Pintu Singh, Vikas Verma, Chandrapal, Rupesh and Ashish Shukla raped her at Prajapati’s official residence at 5, Gautampalli in Lucknow in 2014. In her complaint to police, the woman said Ashok Tiwari had asked her to come to Prajapati’s residence where the minister had asked her to work in sand mining. “He told me that he will allot one block in Hamirpur to me before mixing some intoxicating substance in my tea,” the woman said in the FIR, alleging that she was gangraped after she fell unconscious.
According to the woman, the Minister and his associates used pictures of the gangrape to blackmail her, forcing her to visit another of Prajapati’s homes on Park Road, where she was allegedly sexually assaulted for months.
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The complainant has alleged that the Minister also called her 17-year-old daughter to his residence and asked her to leave the teenager with him. When she said her daughter was an unmarried minor, Prajapati, Ashok Tiwari and Ashish Shukla attempted to rape the girl, the woman has alleged.
She has alleged that she received threats from the Minister and his associates, and feared for the safety of her family. Her lawyer Mehmood Pracha has told the Supreme Court that she has been staying in Delhi along with her daughter because the family fears for their lives.
The Supreme Court
The woman has alleged that she was first assaulted in October 2014, and the assaults had continued until July 2016, when the attempt to rape her minor daughter was made. The woman claimed she had lodged a complaint with the office of the Uttar Pradesh DGP in October 2016, but no action was taken. She then moved the Supreme Court, asking that an FIR be registered on her complaint.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the UP government to lodge an FIR on the basis of her complaint. On Saturday, an FIR was lodged at Gautampalli police station under IPC Sections 376-D (gang-rape), 376 with 511 (attempt to rape), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The election issue
At his campaign rally in Fatehpur on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the case as he targeted the SP-Congress alliance on the condition of law and order in the state. The Supreme Court had had to intervene to get an FIR lodged against Prajapati, and he was surprised that Akhilesh had begun his campaign with Prajapati by his side, the Prime Minister said.
On Monday, Akhilesh changed his plan to campaign for Prajapati who was left waiting on the dais in Amethi, and sobbed publicly at the humiliation. The BJP has made the case a part of its campaign in Amethi, where Prajapati is getting increasingly lonely. Despite the alliance between the Congress and SP, the former has fielded Ameeta Sinh, wife of Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Sinh, against him.
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