Gangrape case: Odisha minister quits

Bhubaneswar, Jan 19: Under attack for allegedly shielding accused persons in Pipili gangrape case, Odisha's Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathy on Thursday resigned on 'moral ground' and in the 'interest' of ruling BJD ahead of next month's panchayat elections.

"I have tendered my resignation on moral ground. In view of the coming panchayat elections, I have taken the move to safeguard BJD's image," Maharathy told reporters after handing over the resignation to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at CM's residence here.

Asserting that he wants the culprits to be punished and the 19-year-old dalit girl to get justice, Maharathy said his resignation was not the outcome of any pressure from any quarter but to protect the ruling BJD's image.

Denying the allegations against him, he said, "I am not a coward, I am a stalwart. I am ready to face any inquiry."

The five-time MLA, who had been made a minister on May ten, last year, said he had full faith in judiciary and truth would come out despite a campaign by opposition political parties to tarnish his image.

The move came a day after the chief minister took stock of the situation and said that a decision on the fate of Maharathy would be taken in a day or so.

Patnaik had earlier said that "extremely strong" action would be taken against the persons found guilty in the gangrape case in Pipili.

Not satisfied with Maharathy's resignation, opposition Congress and BJP said it was an eye-wash and a drama and demanded that the chief minister step down on moral ground.

"Maharathy's resignation is not enough. It is a drama. We want the chief minister to resign. Our battle will continue," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Niranjan Patnaik said.

Making the same demand, state BJP President Jual Oram said Patnaik must resign on moral ground and agitation would continue to ensure justice to the rape victim, now undergoing treatment at SCB Medical College Hospital in Cuttack.


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