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Cry for minister scalp
- Notice to Modi team member in 2011 ‘rape’ case

June 13: A notice issued by a Rajasthan district court to Nihalchand Meghwal, the sole Union minister from the desert state, in a purported rape case dating back to 2011 has sparked a Congress clamour for his scalp.

The minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers in Modi’s ministry, along with 17 others, were accused in 2011 of sexually exploiting a woman in connivance with her husband. The case was closed a year later after the allegations were found to be false.

But on a revision petition filed by the woman in February 2014, a court has issued notices to all 18 and sought a reply by August 20.

In New Delhi, the Congress turned up the heat, questioning why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “failed” to take action against Meghwal despite women’s security being one of the BJP’s key election planks.

“It is shocking to see how a person, who is accused of such a heinous crime, can continue as a minister,” senior party leader Ambika Soni said.

Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza said it was unfortunate that in times when rape had “disturbed the soul of the country”, such a minister was still in government.

“In such times, the court giving a notice to a minister on such charges and then no action is taken against him is very shameful. Why did Modi fail to act against his minister even 24 hours after the court order? Why did he not ensure the resignation of the minister so far? That raises a question mark,” she said.

There was no confirmation if Meghwal, who was in Delhi today, met Modi separately. Along with his senior minister Ananth Kumar, Meghwal went into a review meeting on the agriculture and rural economy sectors that was convened by Modi at 7 Race Course Road.

Kumar was seen leaving without his deputy. Meghwal emerged 15 minutes later, setting off a buzz that Modi might have met him separately.

Meghwal, 42, was not available on the landline of his room at Rajasthan House. His cellphone was switched off.

So far, the BJP has said Meghwal is “innocent” and the Congress demand for his sack is “unjustified”.

Kaptan Singh Solanki, Rajya Sabha MP and the BJP’s central minder for Rajasthan, said: “The charges levelled against him were investigated by police and found to be baseless. The Congress has no business clamouring for his resignation.”

In Jaipur, Meghwal’s legal counsel Aswhini Bohra said: “The allegations are all false. The case was nullified in 2012 after the police and court had found all allegations false and placed a final report.

“The said woman had filed a revision petition in February 2014 but did not make the accused — the minister and 17 others — party in the case, which we challenged in the high court in April 2014. We have just been asked to be present in court and present our defence in the court on August 20.”

BJP sources in Delhi rued the party’s “inability” to nip the Congress campaign against Meghwal before it became viral. Nor was there an effort from the government, they said.

“What were our spokespersons doing? Until one was approached by the media, nobody cared to say a word. This kind of negative publicity must not be allowed to grow,” a party official said.

Asked if Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje had spoken to Modi on the issue, an official said: “If she has, I have no knowledge.”