The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday held each other responsible for the murder of senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh.

During an interview with a Malayalam news channel in Kannur, former Karnataka Chief Minister and BJP state chief BS Yeddyurappa criticised Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s government of failing to arrest the murderers of scholar MM Kalburgi.

Unidentified men shot Lankesh dead outside her home in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwarinagar area on Tuesday night. Yeddyurappa demanded a central agency-led inquiry into the journalist’s murder. A Special Investigation Team has been given charge of the murder investigation.

Earlier in the day, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had hinted at the saffron party’s involvement in her killing. “Anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed,” Gandhi said. “Sometimes, Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] speaks under pressure, but the entire idea is to crush dissent, and this is resulting in a very serious problem in India.”

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi took a jibe at Modi’s call for a “New India” by saying that “muzzling the voice of ordinary citizens and silencing dissent is the slogan of New India”. “This mindless and cowardly assassination has not only shaken our conscience but is also an extremely sad moment for our democracy,” Singhvi said.

Union minister Nitin Gadkari refuted Gandhi’s allegation. “We have nothing to do with the Gauri Lankesh incident,” the transport minister said. “The BJP, the central government or any of our organisations have no relation to this incident. We condemn this.”

BJP Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad condemned the celebration of the journalist’s death by several right-wing groups on social media platforms. “Expressing happiness on the killing of anyone is shameful, regrettable and totally against Indian traditions,” Prasad tweeted. “Social media is not for that.”

Lankesh and the BJP

In November, Lankesh was convicted in two separate defamation cases for an article published in her Gauri Lankesh Patrike in January 2008 criticising BJP leaders. The article alleged that the BJP MP from Dharwad, Prahalad Joshi, had been directly involved in criminal activities. She was out on bail in the case.

The journalist was a known critic of the right, telling Newslaundry in an interview in 2016 after her conviction that “Modi bhakts and the Hindutva brigade” are “keen to somehow shut me up”, and that they would like to see her behind bars.