BJP leader Smriti Irani on Sunday attended the funeral of her aide, a former village head and party worker who was shot dead in Amethi, and said she will "move the Supreme Court, if needed, to seek death sentence" for the killers. Amethi - a bastion of the Gandhi family for decades - voted out Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, its three-time lawmaker, this time and opted for Ms Irani.
Surendra Singh, former head of Barauli village, was shot dead by unidentified men at around 3 am on Sunday. He was attacked at his home when he was sleeping, his son Abhay Singh told reporters. Seven people have been taken into custody in the murder case.
Smriti Irani reached Amethi in afternoon hours after the murder and met his family. She was one of the pallbearers at Surendra Singh's funeral.
"I have taken a vow before Surendra Singh ji's family. The one who fired at him and the one who ordered it.... even if I have to go to Supreme Court to seek death sentence for them, I will knock the doors of the court," she told news agency ANI after the funeral. She also said it has been the policy of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath government to ensure justice
Ms Irani had virtually stationed herself in Amethi ahead of the elections. Surendra Singh had actively participated in her election campaign and had earned praise from the BJP leader in her speeches at public meetings.
Rukmani Singh, Surendra's wife, has claimed he was killed because "he campaigned for the BJP leader". "He did not have any rivalry with anyone. It was only after he supported and helped Irani win that he was killed," she told news agecy ANI.
Earlier, his son had alleged involvement of Congress supporters. "My father was an aide of Smriti Irani and he campaigned for her day and night. After she was elected as an lawmaker, a victory procession was carried out. I believe some Congress supporters didn't like it," he said.
Smriti Irani defeated Rahul Gandhi by over 55,000 votes in the constituency that he had been winning since 2004. The loss of Amethi had pushed the Congress's tally in Uttar Pradesh - a state it once dominated in - to a single seat.
Ms Irani also launched a veiled attack at Rahul Gandhi, who had asked her to "take care of Amethi" after conceding defeat. "On May 23, I got a political message publicly-- Amethi ko pyar se sambhalna (please take care of Amethi with love). I want to tell the person who sent this message that I have received the message loud and clear," she said.
Police has said they are probing the murder case and a political motive in the murder has not been ruled out. "We have come to know about an old enmity. We are also finding out if there was any political enmity. In initial investigation, we have got some vital clues," Om Prakash Singh, the chief of the state police, was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI)