Indian state minister, facing criminal charge, quits

LUCKNOW (AP) - An Indian state minister resigned on Monday after police charged him with criminal conspiracy in the murder of a senior police officer in northern India.

Raja Bhaiya became a minister last year in Uttar Pradesh state despite being accused of kidnapping, murder and extortion in several criminal cases in the past. He held the portfolios of prisons, and food and civil supplies.

He announced his resignation in the state legislature.

Indian laws bar only those convicted in criminal cases from contesting elections. Raja Bhaiya has not been convicted.

Police officer Arun Kumar said that Praveen Azad, wife of police officer Ziaul Haq, alleged in a police complaint that her husband was first attacked with wooden sticks and iron rods and then fatally shot on Saturday by Raja Bhaiya's supporters. He denies the charge.

Haq was attacked as he tried to separate two rival groups firing at each other in Balipur, a village 150 kilometres southeast of Lucknow, the state capital. The village is part of the constituency Raja Bhaiya represents in the state legislature.

Raja Bhaiya had spent 18 months in prison in criminal cases before a powerful socialist party won the state elections last year and brought him into the Cabinet.