The Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka landed in a political storm after a photo emerged Friday of one of the ministers sharing stage with a man arrested for the murder of Bajrang Dal local leader Prashanth Poojary.
The photo showed minister for fisheries and youth affairs Abhaychandra Jain on stage with Sharief Todar at a blood donation camp organised on March 22 by the hardline Islamist outfit Popular Front of India.
Jain is the Congress MLA from Moodabidri where Poojary, an active campaigner against cow slaughter, was killed on October 9 allegedly by Muslim extremists.
The BJP immediately accused the government of shielding those behind the murder and escalated the demand for a CBI probe. “What more evidence do you want of the fact that groups such as the PFI enjoy Congress support? How can an impartial investigation be conducted under these circumstances,” BJP spokesperson S Prakash said.
While Jain himself refused comment, his spokesperson told Hindustan Times, “The minister is called to all sorts of events. How is he to know that one person he shared stage with will go on to murder somebody?”
However, there is more to Jain’s relationship with the PFI, an organisation which is linked to a series of attacks on Hindutva activists in Mangalore and in chopping off the hands of a professor in Kerala for alleged blasphemy.
In the June 2015 gram Panchayat elections, Jain played a key role in an electoral understanding between the Congress and the PFI’s political wing, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).
In Bajpe gram panchayat near Mangalore, Jain engineered a power sharing equation with the SDPI under which the Congress would head the local body for two-and-a-half years before handing the reigns to the Islamist party. The PFI and the SDPI already had reputation for stoking communal passions by the time Jain forged an alliance with them.