BJP leaders in Rajasthan on Saturday refuted the allegation leveled by the Congress that the main accused in the Kanhaiya Lal murder case in Udaipur was a BJP member.
After a few photos showing accused Riyaz Akhtari with some local BJP leaders of Udaipur emerged, Mohammad Sadiq Khan, state president of the BJP Minority Morcha, said the pictures could not be taken as proof that he was a BJP member.
In one of the photos, the accused is seen with the leader of the opposition Gulab Chand Kataria, who also belongs to Udaipur. Khan said Congress wanted to shift the blame on the saffron party in order to divert public attention from the "failures of the Ashok Gehlot government" which, he alleged, did nothing for minorities in three-and-a-half years.
"Anyone can have a photo with any leader. It does not mean that he is a member of the BJP," he told reporters in Jaipur. "He might have gone to some party program to carry out a recce and got photos clicked with local leaders. Since it is a normal trend to upload photos with leaders or celebrities on Facebook and other social media platforms, he might have also uploaded the photo but it does not mean that he is a BJP member," Khan said.
The BJP leader said the murder highlights the state government's failure as it did not provide security to Kanhaiya Lal despite a clear threat. Khan said Akhtari's vehicle number was "2611", which he obtained by choice in 2013, and this indicated his radical ideology.
Kataria issued a video statement saying many people take pictures with him during public events and it is not in his hands.“A photo mine with that criminal is being talked about…I am with BJP since 1974, have been an MLA and a minister. BJP has its minority morcha and my presence in their program is not a crime,” he said.
“I must have gone to the program…who stands with me in the photo is not in my hands. ''Despite that, if someone thinks that some crime has happened because of that, then a criminal case be lodged against me and if the law considers my presence in the photo a crime, then take action against me, I have no problem with that,” he said.
In another photo, Riyaz is seen with local leader Irshad Chainwala. Reacting to the charge, Chainwala said, “I have no association with him. He was introduced to me by someone else. The accused is also not a worker or member of the party.”
Earlier in the day, Congress alleged that Akhtari is a "BJP member" and sought to know whether the Centre had moved quickly to transfer the case to the NIA due to this reason.
Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor, was killed on Tuesday afternoon by two cleaver-wielding men, who posted online a grisly video of the crime and said they did it to avenge an insult to Islam. Akhtari and another accused Ghouse Mohammad were arrested hours after the incident while fleeing on a motorcycle.
Two more people, who were allegedly involved in a recce of Kanhaiya's shop and in the alleged conspiracy to kill him, were also arrested later.