SP leader Narinder Bhati has landed in a controversy after a video purportedly showed him as claiming that he had got UP IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who clamped down on the mining mafia, transferred in "41 minutes".
The claim was made by Bhati while addressing a rally in Gautam Budh Nagar, two days after he denied his involvement in the suspension of the 28-year-old officer.
"I spoke to Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav at 10.30 AM and at 11 AM the suspension order arrived. She behaved so badly and couldn't last for 40 minutes after that. Within 41 minutes, the order came from Lucknow and she was suspended," the video showed him as saying.
Nagpal, a 2010 batch IAS officer, was served the suspension order on July 27 ostensibly for demolishing the wall of a mosque.
Bhati, who is also the UP Agro Chairman and enjoys minister status, maintained that permission was not taken to build the wall around the place of worship. The wall was built to allow people to offer Ramzan prayers in a clean environment, he said.
Asked about the video clippings, Bhati said, "Media was highlighting a concocted version. I had said that it was a victory of democracy.
"SDM's suspension order was issued by state government," he said.
Slamming the Uttar Pradesh government's decision, BJP leader Nitin Gadkari said the attitude of the state authorities is completely oriented towards vote bank politics.
"They are fanning communal and caste-based sentiments. Harassing a good officer for vote bank politics is improper and that is why the IAS Officers Association has opposed the move," he said.
Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi charged the Samajwadi Party with hiding facts in the SDM suspension case due to vote bank politics.
Asking the IAS officer not to lose patience, she said, "The country needs her. She will be a role model for the nation".
A month ago, Nagpal had lodged an FIR against close aide of Bhati in the sand mining case.
District Magistrate Kumar Ravikant Singh in his report to the state government had supported the suspended SDM and said that the wall was demolished by villagers themselves and no JCB machine was put in operation to demolish it.
Bhati had earlier denied his role in her suspension and said he would quit politics if his links to the mining mafia are proved.
The Samajwadi Party leader had said that the state government had suspended Nagpal, who had cracked down on mining mafia, after getting feedback from different persons.
"SDM's role in demolition of boundary wall of religious place was the cause of her suspension and not illegal mining related issues," he said.
Residents of Kadalpur village, where Nagpal had got the wall demolished, said Bhati had donated Rs 51,000 for construction of a mosque. "If it was illegal construction, then why UP minister gave donation," they had said.
The UP Chief Minister yesterday stoutly defended the suspension of Nagpal, saying her action to demolish the wall of a mosque had "vitiated" communal harmony.
Facing intense criticism over the suspension of the officer by the UP government on July 27, an unyielding Akhilesh was also at pains to explain that there was no connection between sand mining and government's action against her. He termed the action as "valid".
The assertion by the Samajwadi Party leader came even as a delegation of All India IAS officers association yesterday stepped in and took the battle to the Centre for revoking the suspension of the officer. The delegation met Union Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy in Delhi.
Noting that Nagpal has been suspended without being given an opportunity, Narayanasamy said the Centre was still awaiting a report from the state government informing it of the officer's suspension.
Amid growing demands for Nagpal's reinstatement, the Minister gave an assurance that justice would be done to the officer, who had clamped down on the sand mining mafia thriving in Gautam Budh Nagar area of Uttar Pradesh.
"I was quoted out of context in the so called visuals in some channels...Who am I to get an IAS transferred?" Bhati told PTI over phone.
He alleged that the district magistrate has submitted a wrong report to save his skin as he was equally responsible for the demolition of the wall.
"A day after the demolition of the wall a panchayat was called by Congress and BSP at Kadalpur village in which around 5000 people, who were agitated, assembled on the issue of demolition of the wall," the SP leader said.
Bhati said that he also went to the village and told the mob that they were being provoked.
"I only told that the government is alert and was working in their interest. I told them that I have informed them about the incident and the Chief Minister has suspended the SDM," he said.
"I had to inform them otherwise the mob would not have dispersed. I only tried to control the situation," he claimed.
The SP leader said that he had requested the district magistrate not to take any step which would affect communal harmony.
"He assured me that nothing would be done, but directed the SDM to demolish the wall. He has given a wrong report to save his own skin," Bhati alleged.
"Everyone in the village is saying that the wall was demolished with the help of JCB machine. Why people, who constructed the wall by donating meagre amount will demolish the wall," he asked.
Meanwhile, villagers at Kadalpur village have demanded to lodge an FIR against the UP IAS officer.
"Though SDM suspension has provided relief to us but we want that FIR should be lodged against her. We will give written demand to district administration and state government," a villager said.
The villagers claim that before Nagpal, Rabupura SHO, Nayab Tehsildar and tehsildar had visited them. Later the former SDM came with the police and PAC and said as per court directions she had to demolish the "unauthorised" wall.
"The land belongs to Gram Samaj and it is LMC land. Gram Pradhan can allow construction of religious place on such land. For religious place in the past too in other areas also no permission is sought or demanded," a villager claimed.