Former Union Minister Chinmayanand, arrested last week after being accused of rape and blackmail by a young law student, is no longer a member of the BJP, the party's spokesperson in Uttar Pradesh claimed today, a month after the allegations surfaced.
Chinmayanand, 72, is a three-time BJP MP and was a minister of state for home in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government.
"I am saying this as a spokesperson of the BJP. I am saying this with responsibility. He is not a BJP member and the law will take its course against him," Harish Shrivastava, the UP BJP spokesperson, told NDTV on Wednesday.
Asked to elaborate on when he stopped being a BJP member, Mr Shrivastava said: "I think for a long time. Right after he fought elections and became a minister? It's not a question of documents and we cannot give an exact date but Chinmayanand is not a member of the BJP."
Pressed for a date, he repeated: "I cannot say about a date but he is not a BJP member."
This is the first comment from the BJP on the politician since the murky rape and abuse scandal erupted in August.
This morning, the woman who has accused Chinmayanand of rape was arrested in an extortion case filed by him.
Chinmayanand was arrested on Friday last, with the Uttar Pradesh police's Special Investigation Team (SIT) denying allegations of going soft on the powerful politician, who runs several ashrams and institutions and is seen to be close to the leadership.
He has been charged under the rape law but under a sub-section on "misusing authority for sexual intercourse", which appears to be a watered-down charge with a punishment of five to 10 years in jail and a fine. A rape charge would have meant a seven-year jail term extending to a life term.
The SIT says the 72-year-old admitted to most of the allegations after being confronted with videos reportedly taken by the woman secretly, using a camera in her glasses. These include videos apparently of him getting massages in the nude, which are circulating online.
This is the second time that the BJP has disowned a leader in similar circumstances.
Another former BJP leader, Kuldeep Sengar, has been in jail since last year over allegations of raping a teen who had first gone to him for a job in Unnao. He was expelled only after his arrest, that too months after the case became public.
The girl alleged that the Uttar Pradesh police refused to act on her complaint until she threatened to set herself on fire in a protest outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's home. Her father died after being thrashed allegedly by Sengar's brother and thrown into jail.
In July, the survivor was critically injured in a car crash in UP caused by a truck with a blackened number plate. Two of her relatives were killed in the crash that is being investigated after her family alleged Sengar had plotted it to eliminate the girl. The teen was released from hospital today.