Bharatiya Janata Party leader CP Thakur on Sunday said Bihar Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma should resign on moral grounds after it came to light last month that at least 34 girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur had been raped.

Thakur said Verma, who is a member of the Janata Dal (United), should take a decision on the Opposition parties’ demands for her resignation, PTI reported. The JD(U) is the BJP’s alliance partner in the state. The Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and other Opposition parties held a protest march over the rapes at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday.

“The scandal points at huge lapses on part of the state social welfare department,” Thakur told a regional news channel, according to PTI. “How could the department be unaware of such a huge racket taking place right under its nose? There are also complaints of similar irregularities having taken place at other organisations controlled by the department.” The wife of an accused in the case has claimed that Verma’s husband was a regular visitor to the shelter home.

However, the JD(U) said this was Thakur’s personal opinion. “CP Thakur has expressed his personal opinion. It is not that the BJP has come up with an official stand,” party spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said. “Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, himself a senior BJP leader, has been articulating the government’s position on the matter.”

The case

The sexual exploitation came to light after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted an audit report in April. The government filed a first information report on May 31. The police initially said 16 girls had been sexually assaulted. Later, the figure was revised to 34 on the basis of a medical report released by the Patna Medical College and Hospital. Ten of the 11 accused have been arrested so far.

The Bihar government on Sunday suspended six officials of a state child protection unit in connection with the incident. The assistant directors of Muzaffarpur, Munger, Araria, Madhubani, Bhagalpur and Bhojpur districts were suspended for not taking any action even after receiving complaints.