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Murder heat piles on Mulayam crown

Lucknow, Sept. 5: The Mulayam Singh Yadav government lurched into a fresh crisis after a ruling party legislator was shot dead last night, stoking calls for the resignation of the chief minister already under attack for Friday’s police brutalities on lawyers.

Ajit Singh, a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council, was murdered as he was partying late into the night at Fantasy Hotel, about 30 km from here, to celebrate his 42nd birthday.

A 12-year-old-boy, who was standing close by, also died in the attack.

The murders, the latest in a series of crimes that has rocked the capital city, sent the year-old Samajwadi Party-led regime into a tailspin. All Opposition parties, including the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party, have demanded that Mulayam Singh step down.

The Congress, which supports the government from outside, stepped up pressure on its strained ties with the Samajwadi Party by calling a bandh tomorrow to protest the lathicharge on lawyers after a collision involving an advocate’s car blew up into a clash. The party said it would start a movement against the misdeeds of the government.

BSP chief Mayavati said Mulayam Singh should step down on “moral grounds” or the President should “sack” his government. “If his own party MLC is not safe, how can his government provide protection to the people'” the former chief minister asked.

The BJP has already launched a “Mulayam mukti” (liberation from Mulayam Singh) movement.

Witnesses said about 100 guests were invited to the party at Fantasy Hotel near Unnao on the Kanpur-Lucknow Road. While drinks flowed and bar girls danced, some of the guests, who were accompanied by armed escorts, fired in the air to celebrate.

Ajit Singh, who had finished dinner by 11.30, was preparing to leave when some of his supporters coaxed him back to the dance hall. “At 12.20, five men allegedly led by Akhilesh Singh (Independent MLA from Rae Bareli) entered the hall in a typically filmy style. At 12.30, a couple of shots were fired by the gunmen of the group,” said a witness.

A Samajwadi Party leader said five assailants stormed the hall and opened fire on the MLC from close range. Ajit Singh was rushed to a nursing home in Kanpur, about 70 km away, but died on the way. The 12-year-old boy, an assistant of the hotel electrician, died this morning, police said.

The police have drawn up an FIR against Akhilesh, who is now close to the Samajwadi Party, Ramesh Kalia, a BJP leader, and three others.

Superintendent of police, Unnao, Brij Raj said Ajit Singh was hit by two bullets, one on the temple and one in the back.Ajit Singh’s brother Arvind said: “Of the five, I could easily identify Akhilesh Singh and Ramesh Kalia. It was a murder to settle old political scores when Ajit Singh had opposed Akhilesh in the Rae Bareli polls where the latter got elected.”

Akhilesh has denied the allegations. Contacted over phone, he said he had no enmity with Ajit Singh. “I believe I am being framed. Let there be a CBI probe to get the truth.”

Mulayam Singh, his general secretary Amar Singh and senior party leaders visited Ajit Singh’s residence to console his family. “The murder is a dangerous signal of things to come. But we will get the case probed thoroughly,” the chief minister said.

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