Congress, BJP spat over Madhya Pradesh minister slapping tribal

Bhopal, April 19 (Inditop) The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh have engaged in a war of words over the incident of state Women and Child Development Minister Ranjana Baghel allegedly slapping a tribal woman Friday.

While the state’s BJP unit chief Narendra Singh Tomar Sunday contended that Baghel did not slap Gangabai, the wife of Palasi village chief, the Congress has demanded sacking of the minister for “misbehaving” with the tribal woman.

Baghel allegedly slapped Gangabai Friday evening while campaigning for her husband and BJP Lok Sabha candidate Mukam Singh Kirade in Palasi village of Dhar district, 250 km from the state capital.

When the minister reached the village Friday, a group of around 10 women questioned her about the promises of development and waiver of farm loans to the tune of Rs.50,000 made by her in the run up to the assembly polls in November 2008.

According to Gangabai’s complaint to the police, as soon as she and other women inquired about the promises Baghel made when she had come seeking votes during the assembly polls, the minister slapped her and moved on.

A case under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was registered against the minister following a complaint by Gangabai.

The minister’s security guards have, on the other hand, lodged a police complaint that Gangabai picked up a stone and headed towards the minister and also misbehaved with her.

Tomar claimed that it was Gangabai and other women with her who misbehaved with Baghel and her supporters to draw political mileage.

On the case against the minister being registered at the Manawar police station in Dhar, he said every incident was registered in the BJP rule. “However, you will come to know the truth after investigation is complete,” he said.

However, state Congress spokesman Manak Agrawal disputed Tomar’s explanation, and urged Governor Balram Jakhar to dismiss Baghel, contending that it was not a petty crime. “Every citizen has the right to know about electoral promises. The woman was not only beaten by the minister but her bodyguards also,” he alleged.

Congress activists in Dhar Sunday submitted to additional district magistrate Mal Singh a memorandum addressed to the governor, demanding Baghel’s dismissal.

Meanwhile, Dhar police is looking for independent witnesses. “Investigations are on. We want to ensure that witnesses have no (political) affiliations. Whatever happened was momentary (outburst of emotions),” Dhar’s police chief Chanchal Shekhar told IANS over phone.

He said the police have no deadline to submit the case report to the court. “We’ll do it as and when investigations are complete,” he added.