New Delhi: After evading arrest for nearly a month, former Uttar Pradesh minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Gayatri Prajapati, who has been accused in a rape case, was arrested in Lucknow on Wednesday.
Prajapati had been absconding since 27 February after he was booked on a Supreme Court directive. A police complaint had been filed on 17 February against the minister and six others for allegedly gang-raping a woman and attempting to rape her minor daughter. The SC had asked the UP police to submit an ‘action taken report’ in eight weeks.
“He was arrested from Aashiyana area of the city early this morning,” said Manzil Saini, senior superintendent of police, Lucknow. The politician was produced before a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court which remanded him to 14 days in judicial custody, said Saini.
The deteriorating law-and-order situation in UP under the Samajwadi Party government was a major issue in the recently concluded assembly election. The SC’s orders to file a police complaint against Prajapati came just two days before the third phase of polling in the seven-phase election. Prajapati, the Samajwadi Party’s candidate from Amethi constituency, lost the election, with the Samajwadi Party winning only 47 of the 403 assembly seats to the BJP’s 312.
UP governor Ram Naik had sought an explanation from chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on the continuance of Prajapati as a minister.
Pleading his innocence, Prajapati, who had earlier said that the case was politically motivated, said he was going to surrender but was arrested.
“I am innocent. This is a conspiracy to malign me,” he said, adding he was prepared for a lie detection test. He also demanded a similar test on the alleged minor victim.
Prajapati was the last to be arrested in the case—the six others have already been detained. His two sons and a nephew were interrogated by the police on Tuesday.
“The same police which was unable to arrest him has acted now. It cannot act properly when the chief minister protects people accused of murder and rape,” said BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma.
Dismissing the allegations, Samajwadi Party general secretary Ramgopal Yadav said, “There was no effort made to shield him.”
PTI contributed to this story.