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Since 1st March, 1999
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Unlike Bengal, Gujarat acts

Vadodara, Oct. 6: Look what the court has done in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat.

Jolted out of a slumber by the Supreme Court, police today lodged a first information report against Madhu Srivastava, the BJP legislator who stands accused of intimidating witnesses into silence in the infamous Best Bakery riot case.

Srivastava is now abroad, having suddenly remembered a host of well-wishers and friends in the US who wanted to felicitate him, but he could be arrested when he returns in a fortnight.

His cousin Chandrakant has also been named in the FIR. Chandrakant is a Congress councillor but, unlike in Bengal, all the political parties in Gujarat have not yet displayed the nerve to sink their differences and oppose the legal system.

The FIR specifically accuses Srivastava of threatening Zahira Sheikh, whose disclosure that she was arm-twisted by the MLA led the Supreme Court to pass a severe stricture against the Modi government over the bakery case in which all the accused were acquitted when most of the witnesses turned hostile.

The stinging rebuke prompted the state government to amend an appeal before the high court against the acquittals, plugging several loopholes. Twelve people were charred to death when a mob torched the bakery in March last year.

Today’s FIR was filed after Nafitullah Sheikh, Zahira’s brother, gave an application alleging that Srivastava, Chandrakant and three others had threatened the family 10 days before trial commenced.

Nafitullah said he was taken to a hotel owned by Chandrakant, where Srivastava told him to ensure that his relatives kept quiet in the court or else face “dire consequences”.

Vadodara police commissioner Sudhir Sinha said Nafitullah has quoted Srivastava as saying that he would personally be in the court to ensure that the witnesses stick to his directive. Srivastava was seen in the court the day Zahira turned hostile.

Denying the charges, Chandrakant said he was the first to inform the police about the bakery attack.

The police accepted Nafitullah’s application after Zahira refused to talk to a team of investigators which went to Mumbai. Zahira, who is now staying in a safe house in Mumbai, told the team that she could not discuss the case now as it is sub judice.

The day he left for the US two weeks ago, Srivastava, who has never been to that country before, said: “I have a large number of friends in the US who want to felicitate me.” But he was not sure in which American city he will be felicitated. “Sahib will be going to New York,” an aide had piped up helpfully, to which he added: “I may also go to Canada.”

The MLA took time deciding why he is being felicitated, finally letting it be known that his friends were honouring him for being elected for the third consecutive term.

Why now, several months after that electoral feat last year' He was waiting for the Assembly session to be over. “My visit has no connection with Best Bakery,” Srivastava had said, dismissing suggestions that he was keeping away till the climate at home changed.

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