Days after The Indian Express published a report on purported conversations between key political players of Chhattisgarh that suggest a financial deal could have led to the withdrawal of a candidate from the Antagarh bypoll in 2014, leaders of the state Congress met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi Friday and demanded that the bypoll result be declared null and void in the light of the “poll fixing” revelations.
Chhattisgarh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel and Congress Legislature Party leader T S Sinh Deo, along with several office bearers of the state Congress, met Zaidi in New Delhi and handed him a memorandum.
In their memorandum, they said the revelations made in The Indian Express report show that a “conspiracy” was hatched to make Congress candidate Manturam Pawar withdraw from the bypoll at the last minute.
Referring to the audio tapes put out by The Indian Express, they said “the conversations make it very clear that there was a conspiracy/deal behind the withdrawal of the nomination of the Congress candidate”.
The tapes are of several phone conversations purportedly between former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, his son Amit Jogi and Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son-in-law Puneet Gupta; between Congress candidate Manturam Pawar (who withdrew) and former Jogi loyalist Firoz Siddiqui; a third between Pawar, who is now with the BJP, and Siddiqui; between Siddiqui and another Jogi loyalist Ameen Memon; and between Amit Jogi and Siddiqui.
The Congress leaders told the CEC that the entire episode falls within the purview of corrupt practices in the Representation of People’s Act and exchange of money is an offence under the IPC and the Money Laundering Act.
“We urge you to hand over the case to the CBI immediately and register criminal cases and cancel the results of the Antagarh by-election… If the Election Commission does not take stern action… then this will encourage mafia and money power in elections,” they said.
Baghel also handed over a fresh audio tape to the Election Commission in which there are conversations purportedly between Jogi senior and Pawar.
AICC general secretary in charge of Chhattisgarh B K Hariprasad said: “The election should be cancelled. There should be re-election in the light of the revelations.”
Baghel and Deo could not, however, meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to demand that Jogi be expelled from the party. They waited all day today for a call from 10, Janpath and finally, with no appointment in sight, returned to Raipur.
The duo were to meet Gandhi Thursday morning, but the death of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and a surprise request for a meeting by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu resulted in cancellation of their appointment with the Congress chief.
Baghel and Deo met AICC treasurer Motilal Vora again Friday. Vora is member secretary of the three-member A K Antony headed disciplinary committee.
Baghel told The Indian Express that he and the CLP leader would return next week to meet Antony and Gandhi. As for the Election Commission, he said “the CEC told us that he would study the matter.”
The Election Commission had earlier sought a report from the Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh after The Indian Express reported the phone conversations. The EC has received the report.
“We have told the CEC that the report of the Chief Secretary would not be impartial. Chief Secretary reports to the Chief Minister, whose son-in-law is involved in it. We asked him to hand over the case to the CBI, registration of FIR and examination of the audio tapes,” Baghel said.