Exortion, murder and a Birthday celebration

The ghoulish death of an engineer allegedly at the hands of a legislator after he refused to pay for UP Chief Minister Mayawati's birthday celebration fund shows the bizarre nature of politics in the state
Pradeep Kapoor, Lucknow, Hardnews

The brutal murder of PWD engineer MK Gupta in the Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh has spread disquiet and unease in Lucknow's ruling party circles. Many in the ruling party circles believe that Gupta's gruesome killing would grievously hurt the political fortunes of the state's Chief Minister, Mayawati.

BSP MLA, Shekhar Tewari, allegedly beat Gupta to death on December 23 after he refused to pay Rs Five lakh for Chief Minister Mayawati's birthday celebrations. Samajwadi Party has found in this incident an opportunity to pin Mayawati on to the back foot, and would observe January 15 (Mayawati's birthday) as "thu thu divas" (day of shame). On this day they will hold demonstrations to protest against the killing. Calling the incident a 'political conspiracy to malign her image", the BSP supremo, Mayawati, had categorically denied that the party workers were involved in money extortion for her birthday. But her claims have been torn into shreds by the confession of the accused, Shekhar Tewari, who has accepted that he murdered Gupta. Also in the dock is the district president of BSP, Yogendra Babu Dohre, who surrendered amidst high drama before the Chief Judicial Magistrate's court on January 6. His surrender came after the UP Police announced a reward of Rs 2500 on him. This controversy has brought Mayawati's soaring ambitions hurtling down.

Known as "aarthik sahayog diwas", Mayawati's birthday celebrations are conducted through the funds collected by the party workers. The reason for this, as the chief minister has repeatedly said in the past, is that "BSP depends on small donations from people as they never accept money from business houses or other national and regional political parties."

Yet, the Auraiya incident is not a singular case of  'money extortion' by hoodlums of the BSP. Numerous such cases have been reported in the past. In Mathura, too, BSP leaders assaulted a Bus company employee for not donating money to the party. The district chief of Mathura, BS Pratap Singh, was removed from his post as his sons were involved in a shoot out of two individuals.
In neighboring district of Firozabad, BSP MLA, Nasiruddin, and his supporters were found to be involved in kidnapping of 20-year-old girl Rekha who was missing since December 1. Hardnews learnt that it was only when her mother demonstrated in front of the district magistrate's office that Rekha was released. Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had also alleged that his party worker Manish was allegedly killed by BSP workers in Agra when he refused to give funds for donations for Chief Minister's birthday celebrations. Paswan not only gave call for an Agra bandh but also said he would
write to Prime Minister and Home Minister and apprise them of the situation prevailing in UP. UP Ministers Ramvir Upadhyay and Narayan Singh, however, denied the involvement of BSP workers in the crime and said it was due to a land dispute between the workers of SP and LJP.

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the incident has given a lot of political mileage to opposition parties. Soon after the Auraiya incident, BJP passed the resolution demanding CBI inquiry into murder. BJP state president Ramapati Ram Tripathi even coined the slogan BSP sharm karo dhan ugahi aur pitai bandh karo (BSP have some shame. Stop beating up people and raising funds)
Senior Congress leaders Ranjit Singh Judeo and Rajendra  Sharma said the collection of funds for birthday celebrations had caused lawlessness in the state. Congress workers would take steps to prevent such collection of funds. The SP leaders went as far to allege that a target of Rs 1000 crores had been fixed to collect donations for Mayawati's birthday celebrations.