Rape and murder accused MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar found prominence on the front page of a newspaper on Independence Day on Thursday as he shared advertisement space with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and other leaders.

The advertisement in the Unnao edition of Hindi newspaper Hindustan was funded by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Ungu Nagar Panchayat Chairman Anuj Kumar Dixit. The advertisement also featured pictures of Sengar’s wife and Zila Panchayat chair Sangeeta Singh Sengar, UP Assembly Speaker Hriday Narayan Dikshit and state BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh.

Sengar is accused of raping a teenager in Unnao in 2017, and murdering her father in 2018. Sengar is a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly and is in jail for the alleged rape since April 2018. However, he was expelled from the BJP only on August 1, days after the complainant in the rape case was critically injured in a car crash. A truck had collided with the car in which she was travelling on the highway. The 19-year-old and her lawyer were critically injured, while two of her aunts died in the collision. One of her aunts was a witness in the rape case.

A screenshot of the frontpage advertisement on 'Hindustan' on August 15, 2019.

Dixit was reportedly inducted into the BJP by Sengar. Defending the advertisement, Dixit told ANI on Friday: “He is MLA of our area that is why his photo is there. Till the time he is our MLA, his photo can be put.”

The BJP, however, distanced itself from the matter. “It might have been someone’s personal choice to give Sengar’s photograph. It has nothing to do with the party or the state government,” spokesperson Shalabhmani Tripathi told PTI. “Whatever had to be done by the party or by the government, has been done. We have no sympathy for Sengar.”

The advertisement is being seen as new embarrassment for the BJP, which was questioned by several quarters for the delay in expelling the MLA. However, two days after Sengar was expelled, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Ashish Singh Ashu had expressed his support and “best wishes” for the rape-accused MLA, whom he claimed was having “a difficult time”.

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