Uttar Pradesh's PWD minister Shivpal Yadav back-tracked from his earlier statement in which he had reportedly told state government officials to steal but not plunder state coffers.
Alleging that there was a "strong and calculated political conspiracy" behind the "misinterpretation" of his statement in Etah, Yadav - who is the younger brother of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav - said that he never said anything like that.
"I had called a meeting with local officials to discuss ways and means to curb graft. How can I encourage them to be corrupt," the Public Works Department minister added.
At a meeting of the District Planning Committee, Shivpal Yadav had reportedly told officials: "Agar aap mehnat karoge to thodi bahut chori kar sakte hain, buddhi lagaoge, agar inhe meetha paani doge to chori kar sakte ho (If you work hard you can steal a little bit)."
Notwithstanding the minister's clarification, opposition parties called it a matter of shame. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and MP from Lucknow Lalji Tandon slammed Shivpal Yadav saying that his comment virtually amounted to a licence being given to officials to loot the state.
Senior Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders have lambasted Shivpal Yadav for his "irresponsible utterances" and have called for his dismissal from the state cabinet.
Senior BSP leader Sudheendra Bhadauria said Shivpal Yadav's statement was a reflection of the jungle raj in the state. He added that a few months ago, BSP chief Mayawati had predicted that people will regret voting SP to power.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) chief Rita Bahuguna-Joshi, too, criticised Shivpal Yadav's statement. She rued that if responsible ministers speak like this, there would be no end to corruption. BJP spokesman Vijay Pathak also castigated the minister and said that his statement showed the "ugly mindset of the ruling SP".
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