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Missing nurse: Gehlot to remove accused minister

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has decided to remove water resources minister Mahipal Maderana following growing criticism over his alleged involvement in the case of a nurse who went missing September 1, Congress sources said.

jaipur Updated: Oct 16, 2011 18:22 IST

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has decided to remove water resources minister Mahipal Maderana following growing criticism over his alleged involvement in the case of a nurse who went missing September 1, Congress sources said.

Meanwhile, Maderana on Sunday left for Delhi to meet central party leaders to give his version of the story.

Party sources further said the chief minister has given Maderana time till Monday to consider resigning, failing which he will recommend his removal to the governor of Rajasthan.

Earlier, the state government ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case and the agency Oct 11 took over the case of nurse Bhanwari Devi's disappearance, in which allegations of Maderana's involvement have been levelled.

Bhanwari Devi has remained absent from duty since August 25, confined herself to her home for a few days and then went missing September 1. A missing person complaint was lodged by her husband the next day. The complaint was then turned into a kidnapping case.

Sources say the chief minister has decided to recommend Maderana's removal to the state governor. The high court's recent observations calling the present Congress government the weakest the state has ever seen might also have prompted Gehlot's decision.

However, the chief minister officially has refused to comment. "It was not an easy decision as Maderana is a son of prominent Jat leader Prasaram Maderana," sources said. "He initially requested the minister to resign, but he refused, after which he has sent his recommendation to the governor."

Jats are a dominant force in at least 40-50 of Rajasthan's 200 assembly constituencies. "The chief minister never wanted to be classified as anti-Jat, so he took time to decide and only took this step after talking to the party leadership in Delhi," sources added.

The Rajasthan High Court Oct 13 had sought an explanation from the police as to why they had not questioned those named in the case of missing nurse, who allegedly features on a CD in a compromising position with Maderana, a lawyer said.

The court sought the explanation when counsel for the nurse's husband, Amarchand, objected to Maderana not being questioned by police, though his name figured in the first information report for rape, kidnap and murder of Bhanwari Devi.

The court also asked the government about its motive behind not questioning the accused in the case, including Maderana.

"The next hearing in the matter is due Oct 17 and to save itself from more shame, Gehlot has decided to remove the minister before that," sources said.

The additional chief judicial magistrate in Jodhpur Sep 24 directed the police to include Maderana as an accused and probe his role under sections 376 (rape), 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

Police have arrested a government contractor from Jodhpur's Bilada area, and had detained three youths from Sikar district but let them off for want of evidence.

During interrogation, the name of Shahbuddin, a mechanic from Pipad area here, also came up. An officer said he is suspected to be the key link who can lead the police to the woman, but he has not yet been traced.