Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's summary rejection of the lokayukta recommendation for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe against influential minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui has baffled the anti-corruption watchdog's top official.
"The speed with which the state government acted in the case left me bewildered. Moreover, the government also challenged my judgment," lokayukta, justice (retd) NK Mehrotra, said on Thursday.
But Siddiqui's colleagues in the BSP are not perplexed by the CM's action.
According to party leaders, the lokayukta - who had earlier praised Mayawati for sacking six of her nine ministers he had indicted on charges of corruption - is ignoring the electoral dynamics that shape decisions in UP.
"Siddiqui is the Muslim face of the party. When the lokayukta recommendation came (February 22), two phases of polling were due in west UP and Rohilkhand region. This is not the time to upset the applecart," said a BSP leader who did not want to be named.
A political analyst said, "Mayawati had sacked the tainted ministers in the run-up to the assembly elections to send a message to voters. Similar action against Siddiqui, her confidant, in the midst of elections was never on the cards."
Amid such theories, the lokayukta focused on the implication of Mayawati's rejection of his recommendation.
"The chief minister's image, of cleansing the party of tainted elements, has taken a beating."
Justice Mehrotra said he had three options.
"I can send the report to the state government for reconsideration. Secondly, I can send a special report to the governor for action against Siddiqui. Finally, I can close the inquiry if satisfied with the state government's reply."
Asked why he recommended a CBI probe against Siddiqui, when he had trusted the state vigilance department to investigate other tainted ministers, the lokayukta said the demand of petitioners and common people guided his decision.
"They do not trust stage agencies to conduct an impartial probe against such a powerful minister."
Siddiqui is accused of amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income, undervaluing properties acquired by him and his immediate family members, and money laundering via benami (proxy) trusts.