BHUBANESWAR: Stung by criticism and apparent pressure from within the party on the sensational Pipili gangrape case, Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy put in his papers on Thursday. His resignation comes a day after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had assured the State that decision on Maharathy’s continuation in the Cabinet would be taken ‘in a day or so.’
Although it is not clear when and whether he was asked to quit, Maharathy has cited two reasons for his resignation: ‘moral grounds’ and ‘to safeguard the BJD image in view of the panchayat polls’. The five-time MLA from Pipili has been in the firing line on the charge that he harboured the gangrape accused. But the Pipili strongman has denied this.
“I tendered my resignation on moral grounds. I took this move to safeguard the BJD’s image in the coming panchayat elections,” Maharathy told mediapersons after coming out of Naveen Nivas.
Naveen on Thursday was as usual not forthcoming on the resignation issue and came out with his two-liners. That Maharathy submitted his resignation letter to him and he has forwarded it to the Governor. On the Opposition demand for a CBI probe, Naveen reiterated that since his Government has already ordered a judicial inquiry, there was no need for another.
For his part, a defensive Maharathy on Wednesday again sought to come clean. “I want the culprits to be punished and the 19-year-old Dalit girl gets justice.” He asserted that his resignation was not the outcome of any pressure from any quarter but to protect the image of his party. “My resignation will facilitate a free and fair probe into the alleged gangrape case,” he said.
In fact, with a tinge of philosophy, Maharathy observed he believes in value-based politics from his student days. “First comes party, then personality,” he said and welcomed any kind of probe into the case.
He also clarified that he was at Umerkote the day the alleged incident took place. “The incident occurred on November 28 last year and I was campaigning for the Umerkote byelection,” he said, dismissing the Opposition allegation of his involvement.