In the first major political casualty of the Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal, Bihar social welfare minister Manju Verma resigned today after days of resistance as opposition stepped up its attack citing purported telephonic conversations her husband had with the key accused Brajesh Thakur.
After handing over her resignation to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Verma tried to put a brave face saying she was confident her husband would come out clean after investigation and demanded that call records of Thakur with other influential people should also be made public.
Speaking to reporters, Verma denied any pressure from the chief minister to quit and said she has quit following a hue and cry made by the opposition in the matter.
Battling a major political crisis amid repeated attacks from the opposition over the case involving alleged rape of 34 inmates at a government-funded girl shelter home in Muzaffarpur run by Thakur's NGO, the chief minister had said earlier this week Verma would quit only if investigations prove that she had facilitated any wrongdoing and not on the basis of "noises" being made by the opposition leaders.
She said her husband was a social and political person and was duty-bound to receive phone calls from people.
Verma said she had full faith in the CBI and the Patna High Court, which is monitoring the probe into the case, and was confident that innocence of her husband would be proved.
She also threatened to file a defamation case against wife of a department official arrested in the case, who had alleged that her husband had been a frequent visitor to the state-funded shelter home.
Earlier, on a day of dramatic developments, Thakur briefly spoke to media from a prison van at the POCSO court premises in Muzaffarpur and admitted that he had been speaking to Verma's husband but it was on political issues.
He also claimed he was being made a scapegoat as he was intending to contest the next election from Muzaffarpur as a Congress candidate and was in touch with leaders of that party.
His claim was dismissed by the Congress as ridiculous and the party's state unit working president Kaukab Qadri said Thakur was seen sharing stage with the top leaders of JD(U) in the last election. Congress MLC Prem Chand Mishra said Thakur was not even a member of the party.
Mishra also said that the state government which had been defending Verma till yesterday, appears to have been rattled by the remarks of the Supreme Court against delayed action in the case and the media disclosure that call details of Thakur showed that Thakur had spoken to Verma's husband 17 times from January to June this year.
The opposition parties have been demanding Verma's resignation since the day the shelter home case came to light. The demand grew stronger when wife of a Child Protection Officer Ravi Raushan, an arrested accused in the case, alleged that Verma's husband had been a frequent visitor to the shelter home.
Verma had denied this allegation, saying he had visited the shelter home only once and that too in her presence.
As Thakur and other nine accused were brought to the POCSO court, some supporters of Jan Adhikar Party, headed by Madhepura MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, threw ink at him. A woman member of the party was detained by police for questioning.
Muzaffarpur's Deputy SP (Town) Mukul Ranjan said a will be registered in the incident.
Meanwhile, the POCSO court fixed the next date of hearing on August 18.
The Muzaffarpur shelter home horror saga has dominated nation's attention for days and has also provided an opportunity to opposition to attack the NDA rule in Bihar.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav and Misa Bharti, CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja and Atul Kumar Anjan, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav and TMC's Dinesh Trivedi among others had staged sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on last Saturday over the Muzaffarpur scandal.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)