Under fire over Pipli rape case remark, Odisha minister quitshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/odisha-agriculture-minister-pradeep-maharathy-pipli-rape-case-naven-patnaik-5525643/

Under fire over Pipli rape case remark, Odisha minister quits

A 19-year-old Dalit girl was raped in November 2011 and died in June 2012 after remaining in a semi-comatose state, sparking a state-wide furore. It was alleged that the accused in the case had been sheltered by Maharathy.

Agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy has been under fire from opposition parties after he hailed a lower court verdict acquitting two persons accused of rape. (File)

Agriculture and Panchayati Raj Minister Pradeep Maharathy on Sunday resigned from the Odisha cabinet in the wake of pressure from Opposition parties over his remarks in connection with the acquittal of two persons accused of the rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Pipli in 2011.

“I have deep respect for the Chief Minister (Naveen Patnaik) and Biju Janata Dal. Under no circumstances, I want this daily pressure on the party to continue,” Maharathy said during a press conference. On being asked if the CM demanded his resignation, Maharathy said that he acted “voluntarily”.

While members of the BJP Mahila Morcha had protested in front of Naveen Patnaik’s residence seeking Maharathy’s resignation and another probe into the case earlier this week, Congress’s women leaders on their way to the CM’s residence had also got into a scuffle with police personnel on Monday.

Maharathy is also the Pipli MLA. “She was an innocent girl. I am saying it again that while I am sad over the verdict, milk is milk and water is water. The truth cannot be suppressed,” Maharathy had said. He apologised for his remarks after the opposition demanded his resignation.

 

Mahila Congress members during a protest rally demanding expulsion of state's Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy. (PTI)
Mahila Congress members during a protest rally demanding expulsion of state’s Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy. (PTI)

In 2012, Maharathy had resigned as agriculture minister on “moral grounds” after facing criticism over alleged links with the accused in the case.

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Sunday said, “If Naveen Babu is interested in providing justice to the Dalit girl, then this resignation is not enough. He should himself recommend a CBI inquiry and apologise to the people of the state.” At a rally this week in Mayurbhanj district, PM Modi had also called for another probe into the case. Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra of the Congress said, “He (Maharathy) had made condemnable remarks.”

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Two senior BJD leaders told The Indian Express that there was talk in the party that the CM was upset over the minister’s statements, which have affected the party’s pro-women image in the state.”