Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday arrested rape-accused Gayatri Prajapati, a senior Samajwadi Party leader and minister in the outgoing Uttar Pradesh government, in Lucknow.
The 49-year-old SP leader was produced before a POCSO court which remanded him to 14-day judicial custody.
As the tainted minister was being taken into custody in a luxury vehicle, questions were raised by Samajwadi Party's rivals as to how he could get the facility.
With photographs of Prajapati travelling in an SUV going viral on social media and news channels, he was soon shifted to a police vehicle while being taken to court.
Prajapati told reporters that he was going to surrender but was arrested.
"I am innocent. This is a conspiracy to malign me," he said and added that he was prepared for a NARCO test to bring out the truth.
Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Javeed Ahmad said, "Gayatri Prajapati was arrested in Lucknow. He was constantly moving from one place to another all this while. This made the job of police more challenging."
He said there was no political pressure on the police to allow the minister go scot free.
Reacting to the "delayed" arrest of the SP leader, BJP UP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, "The state police was till now politicised. As soon as it has been freed from political pressures it has started performing resulting in the arrest."
Sources told news agency IANS that the mining minister in the outgoing government, known for his proximity to Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, was first taken to the Alambagh police station for recording his statement.
Giving details of his arrest, Senior Superintendent of Police, Lucknow, Manzil Saini, said, "Lucknow Police collected important leads during the last three days. Acting on a tip-off that he was going to surrender, police intercepted him early this morning."
When asked if the police gave him a long rope, the SSP refuted the charge levelled in certain quarters.
On why it took such a long time to nab him and why his arrested coincided with the change of government, she said, "Polls were a mere coincidence. Gayatri even gave a slip to his own security guards after polling and was not in touch with them. All along he was mobile and his locations were traced to Delhi, Gurugram, and West Bengal." The SSP said the charge sheet will be filed in 15-20 days.
Since the allegation dated back to 2013, it was imperative for the police to collect all evidence and proceed accordingly, she said explaining the delay.
Six persons - Amrendra Singh aka Pintu, Roopesh and Vikas Verma, gunner Chandrapal, a revenue official Ashok Tiwari, Ashish Shukla - named in the FIR against the SP leader have already been picked up by the police.
Prajapati apparently came under pressure after two of his sons and nephew were detained by the Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday.
The SP leader had been accused of gang-raping a woman and her minor daughter in 2014 and the Uttar Pradesh police had filed a non-bailable warrant against the ex-minister and six others for the same.
In the just-concluded Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh, Prajapati had lost to BJP from Amethi, the seat he held.
He was last seen casting his vote in the UP Assembly Elections held during February-March. He was also present at an election meeting in Amethi which was addressed by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Prajapati had approached the Supreme Court to get a stay on his arrest but the top court refused to comply, asking him to approach the court concerned.