Debating India


Mr Jogi Goes Shopping


Tuesday 9 December 2003

Article paru dans Outlook India, ?dition du 9 d?cembre 2003.

Instant Karma, hoist by own petard, tit for tat and other such are the phrases that roll off the lips once the utter shock and dismay over the recent Ajit Jogi taped revelations register. But what they do underline is the crying need to have a re-look at the anti-defection law. More Coverage.

Ajit Jogi: I sent you a message

Virender Pandey: Yes, I received your offer, but some things need clarification...

Ajit Jogi: Let’s hear them

Virender Pandey: First, the say you have 37...

Ajit Jogi: Take it as 39. Two BSP MLAs are also with us. [He doesn’t talk about the 1 NCP MLA]

Virender Pandey: So we need to arrange seven more to achieve the figure of 17 [reference to the anti-defection law under which one-third or a minimum of 17 are needed to ’split’ BJP with 50 MLAs]

Ajit Jogi: The speaker is our man. He will not disqualify them.

Virender Pandey: But one guarantee is required, that the government will survive for five years. How will we get that guarantee?

Ajit Jogi: It is a matter of trust.

Virender Pandey: Yes, but I would like the AICC president to announce publicly, once the government is formed that the Congress has extended support to them [this breakaway group] to fight communal forces and at no point would support be withdrawn.

Ajit Jogi: Ok, fine

[Excerpts from the conversation between Ajit Jogi, the outgoing chief minister of Chhatisgarh and Virender Pandey, Chhatisgarh state BJP vice-president. Watch out for the extended excerpts to be put up later.]

Instant Karma, hoist by own petard, tit for tat and other such are the phrases that roll off the lips once the utter shock and dismay over the recent Ajit Jogi taped revelations register.

Persistent and predictable denials from the ex-chief minister of Chhatisgarh that it is not his voice appear so thin that no one wants to wait till he is proven guilty, despite all of Jogi’s plaintive pleas that an "audio tape is not admissible evidence" and that unlike the Judeo and Tehelka cases, there is no clinching video evidence.

His appearance tells the tale. As does all the corroborative and circumstantial evidence available so far. Trial by media? No, verdict by the people, more like it.

The fact that senior-most BJP leaders were willing to go on record about their involvement in this sting operation seems conclusive enough for most, and no one is really waiting for the "voice spectrum tests" and confirmatory and corroboratory telephone and other records. So the CBI enquiry ordered by the Chief Minister Raman Singh seems to be more of a formality. No surprise then that the matter took precedence over everything else in Parliament today.

Meanwhile, law minister Jaitley had offered the following reasons as enough to nail Jogi even in a court of law

The taped conversation (with expert evidence proving it was not doctored) and telephone records Two lots of money (one lot of Rs 25 lakhs even had the bank’s stamp) handed over to Pandey by Khunte and Jogi in two instalments. Jogi’s hand-written note promising the Congress’ support to Kashyap to head an alternative government. Evidence of the drivers of the cars When Arun Jaitley gloatingly presented the audio tape late Saturday night in which Jogi’s voice was heard offering money to buy MLAs to put up an alternative government supported by the Congress, the obvious conclusion was that the BJP was taking revenge for the Judeo sting operation. And justifiably so, it would seem, for their list of grievances against Jogi date back to 2000 when he had split the BJP, and engineered the defection of 12 of its MLAs.

That was not all. In between had come all the controversies surrounding the disinvestment of BALCO and then finally the CBI charge-sheet pending against Jogi in a Delhi court accusing him of ’’dishonestly and fraudulently’’ using a forged IB document to tarnish the agency’s image.

After the swearing-in ceremony today, the new chief minister told a press conference that the state Anti-Corruption Bureau had already registered an FIR against the three accused — Ajit Jogi, his son Amit Jogi and Lok Sabha MP P.R. Khunte. "Since the issue related to defection and involves state’s caretaker chief minister, we have taken a decision to hand over investigations to the CBI," he declared.

Singh said the documentary and material evidence, which include cash, audio cassette and a letter written by Jogi, will be forwarded to the CBI for thorough inquiry so that the accused are brought to book. Asked about the chances of immediate arrests, Singh said: "Now it’s up to the CBI"

On Saturday evening, Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley had charged that Jogi had offered Rs 20 lakh to state BJP vice-president Virender Pandey for BJP MLAs to defect and stake their claim to form an alternative government with Congress support. Baliram Kashyap, a sitting BJP MP from Bastar, was proposed to be projected as chief minister.

Jaitley had also released Jogi’s "handwritten letter" addressed to the Governor, which said the 37-member Congress Legislature Party (CLP) would extend outside support to a government that was to be headed by senior BJP leader Baliram Kashyap.

Pandey, who was present at the press conference displayed the cash, said the money was paid to him in two installments - one of which was personally delivered by Jogi and son Amit Jogi.

He said it was BJP MP P.R.Khunte, who had defected to the Congress before the polls, who contacted him on behalf of Jogi (conversation also on tape).

Meanwhile, Jogi had admitted that Pandey did meet him and he wrote a letter addressed to the Governor expressing support to the formation of a government headed by Kashyap. He, however, has been vehemently denying that the voice on the tape is his as well as the bribery charges.

Engineering defections is an old Jogi speciality. Immediately after becoming CM in 2000, Jogi had caused 12 BJP MLAs to defect, three of whom were later made ministers. Before the Assembly elections, the former CM also engineered the defection of P.R.Khunte — a Dalit BJP MP who used to earlier wear a black scarf as a symbol of his pledge to remove Jogi from the Chief Minister’s post. The charges of money exchanging hands had been made even then, but the BJP hadn’t wised up to the advantages of taped evidence then, something which the recent Judeo episode must have underlined.

Pause for a minute to reflect on how old Narasimha Rao, implicated in the JMM case, would be cackling, not to mention all the other smooth operators who have purchased MLAs and MPs with impunity in the past.

The Congress did well to suspend Jogi immediately - but that was more in self-interest more than anything else - and the party would do well to reflect on what its own reaction would have been had it been an ousted BJP chief-minister caught trying to purchase MLAs. Or what its own demands were in the wake of the Tehelka and Judeo revelations.

While it is inexplicable as to why the Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi rejected several notices of opposition-sponsored adjournment motions, including those on the allegations of ’milking’ of PSUs by union ministers, the bribery allegations against Dilip Singh Judeo and muzzling of the media by the Tamil Nadu government, and the BJP obviously ought not to be allowed to brush all the inconvenient cases under the carpet, it is equally disingenuous on part of the Congress to try and deflect criticism by bringing in how the BJP’s ’sting operation’ was within the knowledge of DPM Advani and that law minister Arun Jaitley was a ’a party to it’.

It smacks of the same shameful "defence" that the BJP had mounted in the wake of Tehelka and Judeo exposures. And this episode in no way absolves the party from being accountable for them, as would be sought to be done.

This latest shameful episode, apart from underlining the moral bankruptcy of our politicians also emphasises the need to have a fresh critical look at the anti-defection law.

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0