Rape charge against Babulal Nagar becomes major embarrassment for Gehlot government

A day after the police registered a case of sexual assault against Food and Civil Supplies Minister Babulal Nagar, pressure was mounting on the Congress-led government in Rajasthan on Wednesday for removing him ahead of the Assembly elections. The BJP has demanded a CBI inquiry into the charges against Mr. Nagar.

With the BJP all set to exploit the issue in its election campaign and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi scheduled to visit the State later this week, the case has brought embarrassment to the Ashok Gehlot government here.

The case, slowly developing into a scandal, is likely to create difficulties for the ruling party. The former Minister, Mahipal Maderna, and Congress MLA Malkhan Singh are already in jail in connection with the infamous Bhanwari Devi murder case of 2011.

Shocking: Raje

While the BJP Mahila Morcha took out a protest march and burnt an effigy of Mr. Nagar near the Chief Minister’s residence, demanding his dismissal and arrest, State BJP president Vasundhara Raje sought a CBI inquiry. “It is shocking. This case reflects the condition of women in Rajasthan,” Ms. Raje told reporters at the BJP State headquarters here.

The police have registered a case under Sections 376 (rape) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code against Mr. Nagar following a direction from a Judicial Magistrate, with whom a woman had filed her complaint. Since the matter involves a member of the Assembly, it has been referred to the CID-Crime Branch for investigation.

The woman has alleged in her complaint that Mr. Nagar, who she knew, had called her to his official residence in Civil Lines on September 11. She stated that the Minister thrashed and raped her and later threatened her with “dire consequences” if she revealed the incident to anyone.

Though Mr. Nagar has admitted that he had met the woman during his interaction with the public at his residence, he denied the rape charge and described the case as “political conspiracy.” He said the woman had earlier made similar complaints to the police against a man from whom she extorted money.

A visibly embarrassed Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters on the sidelines of the Jaipur Metro inaugural run that the law would be allowed to take its course in the case. “No one is above law. I said this earlier as well when the case against Asaram Bapu came up. There should be no interference in the legal course.”

Mr. Gehlot did not respond when asked if he would seek Mr. Nagar’s resignation. “The State government never gets involved in the investigation. Media itself says that the government should not interfere in the CBI or police probe,” he said.

Reacting to Mr. Gehlot’s observations, Ms. Raje said the law was not being applied equally to everyone in the State. “There is a watertight CBI case [against Mr. Maderna] in the Bhanwari Devi murder case, but only the CID-Crime Branch has been asked to probe Mr. Nagar’s case. Why is this difference,” she asked.

Arrest him: PUCL

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and women’s groups have also demanded immediate sacking and arrest of Mr. Nagar. PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava said the victim’s statement must be recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code and her clothes sent for DNA testing. Besides, the victim should be provided protection.