Muzaffarpur tragedy: BJP suspends accused leader for 6yrs after Oppn clamour
The party took the step hours after deputy CM Sushil Modi promised ‘strict action’ against Manoj Baitha for allegedly mowing down nine children in Dharampur.Updated: Feb 26, 2018 23:26 IST
Hindustan Times, Patna/New Delhi
A BJP leader accused of fatally running over nine children under the influence of alcohol at Dharampur in Muzaffarpur district was suspended from the party’s primary membership for six years on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi had promised strict action against the accused – Manoj Baitha – even as the Opposition charged the ruling JD(U)-BJP combine with trying to protect him. Ten others were also injured in the incident, which occurred near the government-run Dharampur Middle School on Saturday afternoon.
A police probe revealed that the Mahindra Bolero SUV involved in the incident allegedly belonged to Baitha. Although authorities insisted that the vehicle was being driven by his driver, sceptical Opposition leaders – including Congress president Rahul Gandhi – demanded the politician’s arrest.
Baitha and his driver are currently at large.
“No question of saving the person because of (his) relations with the Bharatiya Janata Party or Rashtriya Janata Dal. I called the Muzaffarpur superintendent of police yesterday and asked him to take the strictest action,” Modi told ANI. “Innocent children were killed, and there is no bigger crime than this.”
Gandhi had earlier censured the state government for the delay in arresting the BJP leader. “In ‘drug free’ Bihar, a BJP leader under the influence of liquor kills nine innocent children. Nitishji, is this the truth of your prohibition?” he tweeted. “The voice of your inner conscience is saving whom – the accused BJP leader or the truth of liquor in Bihar?”
The state was declared dry on April 5, 2016.
Although chief minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a “speedy probe and tough action against the guilty driver”, Opposition parties remain unconvinced. “BJP leader Manoj Baitha, who was driving the vehicle that hit and killed nine schoolchildren, is yet to be arrested even three days after the accident,” said Tejashwi Yadav, former deputy chief minister and leader of the Opposition in the Bihar assembly. The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader threatened to launch a protest in the state if the BJP leader was not put behind bars soon.
Yadav insisted on a probe to establish if the BJP leader was “drunk or not” at the time of the incident. “The vehicle had a BJP board attached to it and the driver was drunk at the time of incident. BJP leaders are totally drunk on power,” he said.
An FIR was lodged against Baitha on Sunday. “It was done on the basis of a complaint filed by Mohd Ansari of Dharampur village, who lost five grandchildren in the tragedy,” said Sona Prasad Singh, station house officer of the Meenapur police station.
In his statement filed before the police, Ansari alleged that Baitha was driving the vehicle when it mowed down the children on Saturday. “Clad in a white kurta-pyjama, he fled after the vehicle hit the school children,” he said, adding that CCTV footage also showed that the BJP leader was behind the wheel.
Angry villagers had blocked the national highway to demand the accused’s arrest on Sunday.
(With agency inputs)
First Published: Feb 26, 2018 22:47 IST