Updated: September 13, 2021 11:51:09 am
A close aide of BJP leader Babulal Marandi was arrested on Sunday morning for allegedly raping a 20-year-old domestic help, top sources in Jharkhand Police said.
Days after he was booked on August 16 for committing the alleged crime at his residence in March 2020, Sunil Tiwary, political adviser to former chief minister Marandi, had told The Indian Express that he feared for his life, and that the FIR against him was “politically motivated”.
Ranchi Senior Superintendent of Police Surendra Jha declined to comment on Sunday.
Tiwary’s arrest is the latest episode in the messy ongoing political feud between the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and opposition BJP.
The CBI has submitted a preliminary enquiry report in a case of alleged disproportionate assets against Chief Minister Hemant Soren that has been taken up by the Lokpal. A case of rape against the chief minister is pending in Bombay High Court, and Tiwary has filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe in the matter.
The Soren government also came under criticism by the BJP recently after it decided to allot a room for namaaz in the Assembly. Protesting BJP leaders including Marandi and Rajya Sabha MP Deepak Prakash were lathicharged by police.
Tiwary, who handled Marandi’s social media outreach, came to the limelight after the former chief minister merged his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) party with the BJP, and was chosen leader of the legislature party.
Tiwary had said earlier: “I do what Babulalji asks me to do. I am his political adviser, and I filed the plea (in the Supreme Court) at his instance. The CM thinks that the complaint to the Lokpal of India on the alleged disproportionate assets of the Soren family is my doing, which is not the case.”
The Jharkhand Speaker had refused to give Leader of Opposition status to Marandi, and proceedings were initiated on the alleged violation of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution (the so-called anti-defection law) by Marandi after he merged his party with the BJP.
On May 3 this year, a woman police officer, Rupa Tirkey, died allegedly by suicide in Sahebganj district. Tirkey had been investigating a case against a person with links to one Pankaj Mishra, who is seen as being close to Chief Minister Soren. Supported by the BJP, Tirkey’s family petitioned Jharkhand High Court seeking a CBI investigation into the case — and on September 2, the BJP hailed the court’s decision granting the plea.
Days later, on September 9, the government decreed that Mayors of Jharkhand’s nine municipal corporations cannot convene or set the agenda of meetings. In response, Asha Lakra, the BJP’s Ranchi Mayor, called a press conference to allege that the Jharkhand Municipal Rules, 2011, were being violated.
All these incidents are seen as part of a larger political tussle between the BJP and JMM. However, the arrest of Tiwary has escalated the issue to a new level, sources on both sides said.
After the FIR against Tiwary was registered last month, Marandi told reporters that the government was “acting in a conspiracy, with malicious intent and irresponsibly…and the police has become a tool of the government”.
On the allegation of rape against Soren, he told The Indian Express: “There was a video purportedly shot by the victim of the rape in which she allegedly said that her life may be in danger, and if something happened to her then I, Tiwary, and others would be responsible. I don’t have anything to do with the woman, still my name was dragged into this… So I asked my adviser Tiwary to become an intervener in the ongoing case into the rape allegation against the CM in the Bombay High Court.”
However, since the case in the Bombay High Court was moving slowly, he had advised Tiwary to file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe by the CBI, Marandi had said. He alleged that the Soren government was “intolerant to any criticism”, and that was “one of the reasons for the escalation of the problem”.
JMM spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya rejected allegations that the action against Tiwary was politically motivated. “The police are doing their job. There is a case against Tiwary and it is for the court to decide on it. There is no political motivation or suppression of any dissent,” he said.
The chief minister’s media adviser Abhishek Prasad alias Pintu said: “There is an allegation and police are investigating… Let the law decide; not Babulal Marandiji… Why is there so much fear?”
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