‘I resigned to prove that I’d nothing to do with the rape’

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Odisha ex-minister Pradeep Maharathy tells Bibhuti Pati that he is a victim of a media trial in the Pipili gang-rape case

Pradeep Maharathy
Pradeep Maharathy, Photo: Arabinda Mahapatra

The Pipili gangrape victim’s brother had alleged that you had given shelter to the four accused at your farmhouse.
Let me clarify that there was no gang-rape in the first place. It has been blown out of proportion by a section of the media. The truth will come out eventually. As far as the allegation of providing shelter to the accused is concerned, it was not the victim’s brother but her cousin who levelled these charges. In a rural family, the mother is the sole guardian. The girl’s mother has admitted that the main accused had an affair with her daughter and that she was opposed to his marriage proposal because of which he tried to kill the girl.

If you are not guilty of providing shelter to the four accused, why did you step down as the agriculture minister?
I resigned to prove I’m not involved in the incident. The Crime Branch and judiciary will conduct a free and fair investigation. No one should be able to point out that I influenced the probe. I’m ready to face any inquiry.

Did Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ask you to quit?
Naveen babu never put pressure on me to resign. I resigned on my own, on moral grounds. I don’t want the party or party leader’s image to be tarnished because of me. For me, personal dignity and the constituency’s respect are more important than a ministerial berth.

After 63 years of Independence, I was the first person from Pipili to be part of the state Cabinet. Besides, I’m the father of a girl and this allegation of being involved in a rape case has been very painful.

Will the gang-rape issue affect the BJD’s chances in the upcoming panchayat elections?
Not at all. Did you see the procession in Pipili after my resignation? The spontaneous support of the public proved my image. All the BJD candidates in my constituency will win. Just wait and see when the results come out on 17 February

Did you talk to Rajya Sabha MP and BJD decision-maker Payari Mohapatra?
It’s wrong to say that he’s the decision-maker of the BJD. He is a respectable leader of the party and I have high regards for him. There are allegations that he is protecting me. All these allegations are utter nonsense.

Why did you attack the media when the truth came to light?
Which truth and what truth? I have never attacked the media. Yes, I expressed my anger because a section of the media published/telecast this issue in a sensational manner and made allegations against me without any strong evidence.

It has been alleged that the police has not registered an FIR in connection with the gang-rape case as it is under pressure from you and your supporters.
These are baseless allegations. During Naveen Patnaik’s reign, no MLA can influence the police. Be patient, the truth will be revealed. My only prayer and hope at this moment is that the girl comes out of her coma.

The rape victim is battling for life at a hospital in Cuttack. Why haven’t you met her yet?
On 7 January, I tried to meet the girl. But out of the blue, it was reported that I had sent Rajya Sabha member Baishnab Parida to suppress the matter and even tried to bribe her family. A section of the media reported that there was a threat to her life. If I had gone to meet her at that moment, people would have painted it in the wrong light. That is why I avoided meeting her.

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