India minister faces music for 'partying' after deadly rally bombs

NEW DELHI - India's opposition has poured scorn on the minister responsible for security for attending a glittering Bollywood function hours after a string of bombs killed six people at an election rally.

A smiling Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was photographed with a Bollywood actress at the music launch of an upcoming movie in Mumbai on Sunday, as security forces scrambled to probe the blasts.

Seven small bombs detonated shortly before Narendra Modi, a Hindu hardliner and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, took to the stage in the city of Patna, killing six and injuring scores.

"It is shocking to find the home minister entertaining himself in a music function instead of monitoring the situation after the serial blasts," BJP spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI) late Monday.

A BJP leader, Kirti Azad, also slammed Shinde, saying he had become a "laughing stock" across the country.

"You find him releasing music cassettes when innocent Indians were dying," Azad told local TV channels.

The embattled ruling Congress party leapt to Shinde's defence, with senior leader Salman Khurshid saying his colleague had a life too.

"Mr. Shinde has a life beyond Patna," Khurshid told reporters, and criticised Modi for going ahead with his speech after the blasts.

Shinde has faced flak in the past for naming a rape victim, who was also a minor, in the nation's parliament, contravening Indian laws which seek to protect the identity of sexual assault victims.

At the height of last year's furore over the gang-rape of a student in Delhi, the minister also compared students protesting over the crime to armed Maoist insurgents.

India's Maoist rebels have been fighting security forces in rural areas for decades, a conflict that is believed to have claimed tens of thousands of lives.