Minister Pradeep Maharathy resigns from post

Bhubaneswar: Amid mounting criticism over his controversial comments hailing the aquittal of Pipili gang rape accused, Odisha Agriculture and Panchayati Raj Minister Pradeep Maharathy today resigned from his post.

While addressing media, Maharathy stated, “I have deep respect for the Chief Minister and the party. Therefore, to avoid any further pressure on the party, I resigned from the ministerial post.”

Responding to a question on whether the CM has directed him to resign, Maharathy said, “I decided spontaneously to quit the post. Otherwise I would not have held a press conference.”

On the other hand, Opposition leader Narasingha Mishra said, “The statement issued by the minister was controversial and condemnable. When the public reacted to his statement on the Pipili gang rape and murder case, he was forced to resign from his ministerial post.”

OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik in his reaction stated, “It took the CM 12 days & a plethora of condemnation from Congress to decide on the resignation of his minister.”

“The PM had yesterday called for the State government to consider reinvestigation of the Pipili Gang rape and murder case. If CM Naveen Patnaik wants to give justice to the victim, the resignation of Maharathy is not enough. The government should handover the case to CBI and the CM should apologise,” said Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister.

Responding to the Union Minister, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said, “The State government will move the Orissa High Court in connection with the Pipili gang rape and murder case. We believe the accused will be sentenced on basis of proof and evidence. Questions should not be raised on the legal process.”

Patra further stated, “There is no need for a judicial probe and law will take its own course. The CBI had probed the Itishree case, but accused could not be held. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan should visit Itishree’s house as well.”

Mother of the Pipili gang rape victim demanded that the accused should be punished. “Will justice be done if Maharathy resigns as the minister? My daughter’s soul will rest in peace when the accused will be sentenced.”

Echoing similar views, father of the victim said, “If she was his (Maharathy’s) daughter, would the minister have said the same thing? Maharathy’s resignation will not deliver justice to my child. I demand a CBI inquiry and will be happy only if she gets justice.”

Commenting over the development, senior journalist, Rajaram Satapathy stated, “If you consider the court verdict and Maharthy’s statement thereafter, it seems he had become a burden for the State government. An impression was created among public that the government is ignoring the safety and issues of women. The minister’s statement showed he was concerned about the accused more than the victim. When elections are around the corner, it was impossible for CM Naveen Patnaik to keep him (Maharathy) in the State Cabinet.”

Close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising the issue while addressing a public rally during Baripada visit, the resignation of the minister is considered to be a damage control move by the ruling-BJD ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Opposition political parties especially the women wings of both the Congress and the BJP and several other women outfits had been intensely demanding the ouster of the minister.

Recently BJP Mahila Morcha and Mahila Congress had taken to streets demanding action against the minister and also protested Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s silence over the issue.

On December 25 last year, Maharathy had hailed the verdict of Bhubaneswar Additional District Judge to acquit two prime accused of Pipili gang rape and murder case. In his comments, Maharathy had said, “My sympathy are with the victim, but I respect the court’s verdict. The victim had got justice and truth has prevailed.”

Maharathy had to quit from his ministerial post in 2012 based on allegations of shielding the accused of the Pipili gang rape and murder case.