New Delhi, May 16: As the circumstances shrouding the murder of Lucknow poet Madhumita Shukla grow murkier, the BJP is wary of issuing a frontal response even though the main suspect is a minister in the Uttar Pradesh coalition government, Amarmani Tripathi.
According to BJP sources, party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi spoke to chief minister Mayavati when the circumstantial evidence insinuated a relationship between Madhumita and Tripathi, a BSP legislator.
Sources, however, stressed that neither Naidu nor Naqvi suggested that Tripathi be dropped from the ministry. “They only asked her to brief them on what was happening (on the case) and she said police were investigating it,” they said.
“The chief minister asserted that no criminal, however high-and-mighty or well-connected, would be spared if there was incriminating evidence against him.”
In an informal interaction with the media, Naqvi — initially wary of commenting — made a general observation without making any specific comment on Tripathi. “Since he is a BSP minister, it is for Mayavati to decide whether she will retain him or drop him,” he said. “The party is of the firm view that those having criminal cases against them should not be allowed to hold ministerial posts.” But he quickly clarified: “I cannot answer about any particular individual.”
Sources conceded that the chief minister gave no hint of taking action against Tripathi, not even saying “what is routinely said in such matters — that I will leave it to his conscience to decide whether he should continue as minister or not”.
Mayavati’s unwillingness to come down on the minister became more evident at a news conference today in Lucknow where she declined to answer questions, saying that investigations were on. She said she would not speak on the issue today but would hold a separate conference on it soon.
Apart from the compulsion of not wanting to rock the boat in Lucknow, the BJP had painted itself into a corner on Madhumita’s murder because Tripathi was also a minister in the last government headed by two of its chief ministers, Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh.
Tripathi, who was originally in the Congress, was among those who deserted the party in 1999 under Naresh Aggarwal’s stewardship and joined the breakaway Loktantrik Congress Party.
Initially, there was considerable disquiet in the BJP when, contrary to its claims of forming a “corruption and crime-free” government, it was quick to make MLAs like Tripathi and Hari Shankar Tiwari ministers. The two, both from eastern Uttar Pradesh, have a dozen murder and attempt-to-murder cases against them.
Rajnath was later forced to drop Tripathi when the latter was caught sheltering the kidnappers of a Gorakhpur businessman in his ministerial residence at Lucknow.
Before the last elections in Uttar Pradesh, Tripathi left the LCP and hitched on to the BSP bandwagon. Political observers say he would have been swept away by the general anti-BJP mood in the state had it not been for the BSP’s Dalit votes that ensured his victory by a small margin.