Debating India

ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

Jogi In The ’Dock’

PTI

Saturday 6 December 2003

Article paru dans Outlook India, ?dition du 6 d?cembre 2003.

Arun Jaitley plays two audio tapes in Raipur in which outgoing Chhattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi is allegedly heard offering bribes to BJP MLAs to prevent formation of the government. Jogi is placed under suspension after the Congress acts on reports that he used party chief Sonia Gandhi’s name in the episode.

In a sensational tit-for-tat game, the BJP tonight alleged that outgoing Chhattisgarh Chief Minister offered bribes to its MLAs to prevent formation of the party government tomorrow.

Acting quickly on reports that Jogi used Sonia Gandhi’s name in the episode, the Congress suspended him from the party and barred him from attending the working committee meeting convened in New Delhi tomorrow to discuss the rout in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Alleging that the conspiracy was enacted under the direction of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley played two audio tapes at a press conference in Raipur.

The tapes purportedly contained a conversation between Ajit Jogi and Congress MP P.R. Kunte, who recently defected from the BJP, with former BJP MLA Virendra Pandey and Baliram Kashyap, MLA, to make the latter the Chief Minister on the basis of support from rebel BJP MLAs supported by the Congress from outside.

Jaitley displayed a bag containing wads of Rs 500 currency notes totalling Rs 20-25 lakhs as the first installment of bribe to effect a split in the BJP legislature party.

Jaitley also showed a letter purportedly written by Jogi addressed to the Governor expressing support to the formation of a goverment headed by Kashyap, a tribal MLA.

Jaitley demanded the arrest of the conspirators and a CBI probe into the entire episode.

He said a copy of the tapes had been given to the Governor and original tapes and the documents would be handed over to the police for investigation because they had no faith in the administration which had a few more hours before the BJP government takes over tomorrow.

Taking serious note of the alleged use of Sonia’s name in the tapes, the Congress placed Jogi under suspension and barred him from attending the CWC meet in New Delhi pending an inquiry into the episode.

Jogi at his press conference past midnight said the voice in the tape was "fully concocted and forged" and it was not his.

However, he admitted he had given a letter to Pandey to be given to the Governor supporting formation of a government headed by a tribal Chief Minister.

Asked whether it was not illegal to write to the Governor even before his election as legislature party leader, Jogi said as Chief Minister, he was still its leader.

Maintaining the Dilip Singh Judeo tape operation was a trap, Jaitley said Jogi and Kunte were both public servants and a case of corruption could be made out against them for effecting defection in a political party like the JMM case during Prime Ministership of Narasimha Rao.

He said both Kashyap and Pandey were main witnesses and evidences like the tape, cash and documents were genuine.

Tomorrow after the swearing in of the new government, it would formally seek a CBI inquiry.

The money would be deposited with the police, Jaitley said.

Jaitley said Jogi’s son Amit was involved in the episode as could be made out from the conversation.

Reacting to the BJP allegation, Congress general secretary Ambika Soni condemned the use of Sonia’s name and said nobody was authorised to invoke her name.

She said given the seriousness of the issue, the party would demand a CBI inquiry, pending which Jogi has been suspended.

Soni accused the BJP of adopting double standards on the tape issue saying the Centre did nothing when former Union Minister Judeo was allegedly caught accepting money but demanded a CBI probe into the Jogi issue.

"What action did the Centre take in the Judeo case when the whole world saw money exchanging hands. But here it was only a case of audio tapes without any proof."

Jogi said it was a BJP conspiracy to divert attention from the Judeo episode.

He said he did not have any discussion on offering bribes or invoking Sonia’s name. He did meet Pandey who came to his house wanting a letter from him seeking support for a tribal Chief Minister.

Jogi said he was not involved in any dealing involving cash.

Jogi said he was sure that Kunte would also not get involved in any such activity.

His son, Jogi said, was away in some nearby place.

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