Five years after he withdrew from a bypoll to Antagarh (ST) Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh, then Congress candidate Manturam Pawar has accused then Chief Minister Raman Singh, former CM Ajit Jogi, his son Amit Jogi and others of striking a Rs 7 crore deal to influence the election and forcing him to withdraw his nomination.
Manturam was among 12 candidates in the fray but he withdrew at the last moment, handing an easy victory to BJP’s Bhojraj Nag. He later joined the then ruling BJP, which is now the Opposition party.
On Tuesday, the BJP expelled him for anti-party activities.
On Saturday, the 52-year-old recorded a statement under Section 164 of the CrPC in a JMFC Court, Raipur, accusing Singh, then PWD Minister Rajesh Munat, former CM Jogi and his son Amit, among others, of forcing him to withdraw his nomination.
Manturam claimed that a Rs 7 crore deal was struck at the then PWD minister’s home. After recording his statement, he sought police protection for him and his family, citing threat to his life and property, and was provided security on Saturday.
He alleged that Congress leaders Amin Menon and Firoz Siddique told him on August 28, 2014, that Ajit Jogi and his son and then legislator Amit had joined hands with Raman Singh and the BJP because they wanted to harm the Congress. He said Siddique and Menon called him to Makdi dhaba around 5 pm on August 29. He claimed the duo told him that a deal had been struck between Singh and the Jogis.
“I was told that I am a small fry and it was explained to me that Jogi did not like (then) PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel and wanted to cut him to size by teaching him a lesson in the by-election,” Manturam said, adding that Siddique made him talk to Raman Singh on phone and the then CM “asked me to do what I had been told to do”.
Manturam claimed the then PWD minister handed over Rs 7 crore to Siddique at his home and he did not get a single penny from the amount. He said that he was ready to reveal all his property and valuables for probe and claimed that he went through a phase of depression before Singh and the Jogis made him join the BJP.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said his allegations about irregularities in the Antagarh bypoll have been proved right. “The conspiracy to murder democracy was deeper than our suspicion,” he tweeted. “I refuse to call it politics. I don’t think it’s appropriate to call these conspirators politicians. Shameful.”
Raman Singh accused the ruling Congress of putting pressure on Manturam to give the statement in view of the ensuing by-election to Dantewada constituency. The BJP leader claimed there was no deal or exchange of money and that he would present his side before the court.
The Congress government constituted an SIT in January to probe the Antagarh tape case. In February, the police named the Jogis, PWD minister Munat, Manturam Pawar and Dr Puneet Gupta, who is the son-in-law of Raman Singh, in the FIR filed in connection with the case.
The tapes, first reported by The Indian Express, in December 2015, purportedly showed conversations between Singh, Gupta, Ajit and Amit Jogi, among others. The tapes also have purported conversations involving Pawar. The Congress had expelled Ajit and Amit Jogi after the tapes surfaced.