Vinod Arya, the father of Pulkit Arya, the prime suspect in the murder of Ankita Bhandari in Uttarakhand, was expelled from the BJP state on Saturday after his son’s arrest last week. The Pushkar Singh Dhami-led BJP government has also removed his eldest son, Ankit Arya, from his post as vice president of the Uttarakhand OBC Commission.
The murder of the 19-year-old, who worked as a receptionist at a resort owned by Pulkit Arya, sparked outrage and widespread protests across the northern state, with locals attempting to beat the accused while he was taken into custody and also fire to the partially demolished resort.
Vinod Arya, meanwhile, had denied the allegations against his son and had defended him as a ‘seedha sadha balak’ (a simple boy). “Seedha sadha balak hai (he is a simple boy). He only cares about his job. I want justice for both my son Pulkit and Ankita Bhandari,” Arya had been quoted as saying by NDTV.
Arya held the rank of minister of state in the previous Trivendra Singh Rawat-led BJP government, but was never considered a mass leader or had significant support. However, he used his influence to get close to senior BJP leaders, a report by Indian Express said.
Arya was inducted into the state BJP mainly because of his business interests in swadeshi Ayurveda, for which he was known, the reports claimed. Later, he was appointed chairman of the Uttarakhand Mati Board with the rank of a state minister.
“He was never a mass leader and never brought votes to the party. Vinod Arya is known in the area for running the Swadeshi Ayurveda firm which is why many in the party believed that it would be good to have someone with the swadeshi label. Once in the party, he started making claims for various posts. In meetings, he always said that he is a senior leader and that he should be given appropriate recognition. That gave him the rank of minister of state,” a BJP state leader said Indian Express.
The former minister, who hails from Haridwar, used his political influence to further expand his Ayurveda activities and other interests. The Vanantra Resort, owned by Pulkit Arya, in the Laxman Jhula region, where Bhandari worked, is cited as an example in this regard. Arya’s eldest son Ankit, who also joined the BJP, later became the vice president of the state’s OBC committee.
Arya has also been accused of threatening journalists for reporting against him. Uttarakhand police confirmed on Monday that they had received a complaint from a local journalist, Ashutosh Negi, about a threat call he had received. On that basis, the police said they had registered a case and started an investigation.
Pahad TV journalist Naval Khali, who did a live interview with Negi, also received similar threats. After missing several phone calls while conducting the interview, he answered and in the call recording, the person on the other end could hear him say that “he should talk less and take care of himself,” according to the report. The police are also investigating this.
Many in the political circles of the state believe that Vinod was only a “symbolic face” in the party and thus “indispensable”. This was evident in the BJP’s swift action against him and Ankit, the report suggests.
Vinod and Ankit Arya were expelled from the BJP with immediate effect on Saturday, less than a day after Pulkit Arya was charged with the murder. Uttarakhand CM Dhami also ordered an SIT investigation into the matter and the resort owned by Arya was partially demolished by the government overnight.
Arya, meanwhile, claimed that he and Ankit had resigned from the party themselves. “Pulkit Arya is my son, but he lived separately for a long time. We are responsible people. We have decided that as long as the investigation is ongoing, and to ensure that my position is not abused, I have submitted my registration of all BJP posts. We will participate in all kinds of investigations. We want the truth to come out so that both Ankita and Pulkit can get justice,” he said.
Pulkit Arya was arrested Friday along with two employees of his resort for the murder of Ankita Bhandari. A day after his arrest, the teen’s body was found in the Cheela Canal near Rishikesh, six days after her parents found her missing in her room. Pulkit Arya, resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and assistant manager Ankit Gupta were sent to jail for up to 14 days.
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