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Rajendra Singh Rathore, 60, a five-time MLA from Churu district is said to be Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s right-hand man. A BJP heavyweight in the state, he was the chief whip of the party when in Opposition. A MA, LLB, DLL from Rajasthan University 1981-82, he was also its president. He won the Churu Assembly seat in the years 1990,1993,1998, 2003 and 2013. Son of Uttam Singh Rathore, he hails from a farmer’s family. But he has been firebrand student leader.
In political circles, Rathore is seen as third in rank in the state’s power structure. From Taranagar in Churu, he has always stood up for Raje both in and out of power. And vice-versa happened when Rathore was arrested in the Dara Singh fake encounter case.
Dara Singh encounter case: The CBI had arrested Rathore in April 2012 for his alleged role as a conspirator in the Dara Singh fake encounter case of October 23, 2006. He was produced before a city trial court, which then sent him to judicial custody.
The CBI had then claimed that it had evidence to prove Rathore’s role in the encounter that appeared to be a fallout of the liquor mafia Dara Singh’s supremacy struggle on the BJP legislator’s political turf, Taranagar, Churu, bordering Haryana.
Soon after the arrest, Raje, the then leader of Opposition had accused the Congress-led UPA government of using CBI as a tool to seek political revenge. Extremely popular in the state BJP, Rathore had hundreds of party workers and most top leaders rallying behind him then. Raje had targeted the then Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for pitching communities against each other.
Rathore comes from the Rajput community, while Dara Singh belonged to the Jat community. She had said, “Gehlot is hiding his government’s failures by falsely implicating community leaders through the CBI. He did not spare his own party legislators.” referring to the Bhanwari Devi murder case in which Congress MLAs Mahipal Singh Maderna and Malkhan Singh Bishnoi, who were and is still currently in jail.
The Dara Singh encounter case is currently being monitored by the Supreme Court. In its chargesheet, the CBI implicated 16 policemen and a businessman for the fake encounter. Rathore was not implicated in the chargesheet then but it was categorically mentioned that investigations against him were pending.
Rathore was PWD minister in the Vasundhara Raje government (2003-2008) when the encounter was staged. He had always contended that he did not know the person killed in the encounter.
Dara Singh was an active member of the powerful liquor mafia that has its presence on both sides of the state border. He was facing cases of attempt to murder and smuggling. He had threatened to spill the beans for many in this politician-criminal nexus controlling the liquor mafia.
Roop Kunwar Sati case : Rathore was also acquitted in the famous Roop Kunwar Sati case, which happened in Deorala in September, 1987. The acquittal came on January 31, 2004, 17 years after the horrifying incident took place.
Rathore was the state BJP vice-president then. The court had also said that there was no evidence to prove that the accused had made speeches in favour of the act. In September 1987, the entire country was shocked when the 18-year-old Roop Kanwar was burnt alive on her husband’s pyre.
In 2014, Rathore, who is also the state health minister, was under fire for the rise in swine flu cases with more than 400 deaths counting with the Opposition demanding his resignation. Rathore has stood guard for Raje when she faced continuous media bombardment in the Lalit Modi case. Rathore is considered a major firefighter for the state government and is often fielded to tackle the media. A good orator, his Assembly speeches always hit the right cords.