Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said he saw "nothing wrong" in the 'fake' encounter of "a criminal like" Sohrabuddin Sheikh, who was gunned down by the police in Gujarat in November 2005.
While the "fake encounter" has triggered a hot debate on "killers in uniform" across the country, Naidu argued: "I see nothing wrong in the police encounter of a criminal like Sohrabuddin."
He sought to compare Sohrabuddin's killing to that of the kidnappers of a child who was recovered in an operation carried out by Uttar Pradesh's Special Task Force (STF).
"If Sohrabuddin's encounter was wrong then how can you justify the gunning down of these two kidnappers here?" he told reporters in Lucknow.
Terming Sohrabuddin as a "gangster and extortionist", Naidu wanted to know how cops could be expected "to deal softly with such elements".
He was however caught on the wrong foot when a scribe pointedly asked him, "do you believe that Sohrabuddin's wife Kauserbi was also a gangster; do you have her criminal history too?"
He promptly conceded, "Well, an inquiry has already been ordered by the Gujarat government into that and punitive action initiated against some police officials".
Sohrabuddin was killed in a shootout with the police in Lucknow on Nov 26, 2005. Police had then claimed he was a terrorist and was planning to target Chief Minister Narendra Modi. However, a CID enquiry showed that Sheikh was merely a petty criminal and the shootout was staged.
His wife, Kauser Bi, was also with him at the time of the encounter and was killed by the policemen. Her body was later burnt and disposed off.
Reiterating his party's stand on the controversial 'hate-Muslims' CD circulated as part of the BJP poll campaign in the state", Naidu said: "BJP has nothing to do with the CD".
Reacting to the Election Commission's view for public condemnation of the CD by the BJP, Naidu shot back: "why should we do that when our party was not associated with the CD?"