Hours after the Goa Congress President Girish Chodankar named him in a sexual exploitation case, Milind Naik, state Urban Development Minister and BJP legislator, tendered his resignation from the state cabinet on Wednesday.
Naik, a three-term MLA, first elected in 2007 from the Mormugao constituency, is facing allegations of sexually exploiting a woman from Bihar and the main complainant in the ‘sex scandal’ is his direct political rival in his constituency, Congress leader Sankalp Amonkar.
Amonkar, too, has been accused of sexual harassment by the same woman but has vehemently denied the charge.
State Congress vice president Sankalp Amonkar had also filed a police complaint against Naik and released a purported audio conversation between the victim and the MLA.
Have Video, Audio and WhatsApp Proofs, Claims Congress
Naik first found himself facing allegations on November 30 when Chodankar, without naming him directly, claimed in a press conference that a minister in Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s cabinet had misused his office and sexually exploited a woman. Chodankar said that in early November, two “responsible people” had brought evidence in the form of video, audio and WhatsApp chats to show how the minister had sexually exploited the woman.
“It is out of decency and moral responsibility that we are not disclosing the name of the minister yet. There are two families involved in the matter, that of the woman and the Minister, who are not at fault in this. We are giving the government 15 days to take action against the Minister. He should be sacked and booked for this offence. The ball is now in the court of Dr Pramod Sawant,” Chodankar had then said at the Congress House in Panaji.
‘Sawant Tried to Destroy Evidence’
Chodankar further claimed that CM Sawant was shown the videos and audio proofs of the misconduct but he “went out of his way to protect this minister and destroy the evidence.”
“Someone has misused his power and sexually exploited a woman. This is most condemnable. The CM goes out of his way and tries to destroy evidence. The minister commits this paap (sin) and the CM then commits a ‘maha-paap’. We have also highlighted cases of corruption in the past, but something like this cannot be condoned. I am pained to bring this to the people of Goa. He has misused the police as well. How could we keep quiet? Why is the CM supporting something like this? The minister should have been asked to resign, and if he didn’t, he should have been sacked, but the CM did nothing,” he had said.
CM Promises Fair Probe
Sawant, on his part, said that the state government will probe the allegations levelled by the Congress. After meeting Naik late on Wednesday night, the chief minister told media persons that Naik has resigned for a free and fair investigation into the case. “I have accepted the resignation and also sent it to the governor. Whatever evidence the Congress has produced that we will investigate,” he said.
Under Pressure Due to Modi’s Visit?
The controversy has left the BJP red-faced ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state on December 19. And while the chief minister has promised a “fair trial”, Congress has dismissed Sawant’s assurance as a face-saving exercise.
Speaking to News18, Corporation of The City of Panaji (CCP) Councillor and Panaji Block Congress Committee President Joel Andrade said, “Both Milind and Sawant are partners in crime in this corrupt BJP government in Goa. The chief minister is in a tight spot and is finding it difficult to take action in this case because of his proximity to the minister. Now, with PM Modi’s planned visit to Goa, he has just taken a superficial action of getting him to resign as a minister.
Andrade pointed out that Naik still continues to be an MLA. “Milind has resigned as a minister but is still an MLA in the ruling government. How can a free and fair investigation take place with him continuing to be an MLA in the ruling BJP government?” he asked.
Similar Charges in 2017
The controversy, however, is not new for Naik who has found himself at the receiving end of similar accusations in the past. Just before the 2017 assembly polls, a woman in her thirties had accused him of outraging her modesty and a case was filed against him in the Mormugao police. Back then too, Naik had claimed that the case was ‘a political gimmick’. The case was later closed due to lack of evidence.
He was also recently accused of corruption by one of his own party colleague, BJP MLA from Vasco Carlos Almeida. Almeida had claimed that there were irregularities in the restoration of the heritage Mormugao municipal council building by the Naik-headed Goa State Urban Development Authority.