A manhunt is under way for India’s first ever ‘Happiness Minister’ after he fled an arrest for murder charges, say police.
Lal Singh Arya, 53, disappeared on Tuesday after being named a suspect in the murder of opposition politician Makhanlal Jatav.
Mr Jatav, from the Congress party, was shot dead while out campaigning for another candidate in April 2009.
An arrest warrant was issued last week by a court in Bhind.
Mr Arya has previously denied the charges.
He is the head of India’s only Department for Happiness. Set up by the government in the central state of Madhya Pradesh in 2016, it is tasked with improving “the happiness and tolerance of its citizens” and “putting a smile on everyone’s face” through services such as free yoga and meditation classes.
Mr Arya, of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had been due to appear before court on December 19th.
Police were unable to find him at his home, his official residence or in his home town.
“Police teams are still looking for him. We are positive that we will track him down by then,” Superintendent Prashant Khare told AFP.
Mr Arya was tasked by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in January with ensuring “the happiness and tolerance” of the state’s citizens.
The happiness ministry is modelled on the “gross national happiness” index used by Bhutan as a measure of its success.
Madhya Pradesh hopes for its own such “happiness index”, and has promised social programs including yoga, meditation and free religious pilgrimages for senior citizens.