On April 25,2007,a day after the Gujarat Police arrested Alwar SP Dinesh M N and two other Gujarat police officers in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case,the then Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria along with Home Secretary late V S Singh and DGP A S Gill had rushed to Gandhinagar.
There Kataria met his Gujarat counterpart Amit Shah and condemned the arrest. Shah called for the case diaries and the matter was discussed behind closed door. Back in Rajasthan,Kataria had then said that the police officer was being framed by the Gujarat Police.
Now with CBI naming him along with two Andhra police officers and Vimal Patni,director of R K Marble in Rajasthan,Kataria,the 68-year-old Opposition leader in poll-bound Rajasthan,finds himself on a sticky wicket.
The CBI chargesheet says Kataria was the link between Vimal Patni and former Gujarat home minister Shah. It also says that Kataria conspired to eliminate Sohrabuddin who was allegedly demanding Rs 24 crore as protection money.
Nevertheless,the state BJP unit and the national leadership has come out in his support. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and state president Vasundhara Raje flayed the Congress,questioned the CBIs timing,and said the party will fight for Kataria.
The CBI had sought six weeks from the Supreme Court. It got over on September 27,2012. Now months later it wakes up and names someone as innocent as Kataria, Raje said on Thursday. In protest,it also called for a state-wide bandh on
Meanwhile,a poker-faced Kataria,an MLA from Udaipur,declared that he would quit as MLA and would never return to the Assembly if arrested on June 4 when he will appear before a magistrate court in Mumbai. Kataria said he does not even know who Vimal Patni is.
The CBI case against Kataria has come as rude shock for the embattled state BJP,which has been banking on his political skills for the polls in November. For over four decades,Kataria has been with the party in its highs and lows.
A schoolteacher,part-time lawyer and local RSS worker in Udaipur,Kataria stepped into active politics in late 70s. A six-time MLA from Udaipur since 1977,he was also an MP from 1989 to 91. He became education minister in Bhairon Singh Shekhwat government from 1993-98 and was state president in 1999-00. From May 2004 to December 2008,he was home minister in Raje government.
However,last year he did try to test his strength in the party when he decided to start on a 28-day yatra against Ashok Gehlot government despite opposition from both Raje and the central leadership. He had then become critical of Raje. But after Rajnath Singh took over the party,he made Raje state president and partys chief ministerial candidate. Singh made him the leader of the Opposition and Kataria fell in line.
Known for his emotional outbursts,Katarias imminent arrest is likely to affect Raje who will have to wage a lonely battle. That too at a time when a section of the party is displeased with her.