Updated: December 31, 2015 4:59:40 am
Ajit Jogi was suspended from the Congress on a December night in 2003 after the BJP released an audiotape in which he was purportedly heard offering money to buy BJP MLAs to foist an alternative government supported by the Congress.
Twelve years later, the veteran Congress leader faces more or less a similar fate. Purported audio recordings again suggest that he and his son Amit allegedly had a role in the last-minute withdrawal of a Congress candidate from the Antagarh Assembly by-election in Chhattisgarh last year, giving the BJP a walkover.
What infuriated the Congress in 2003 was the reference to Sonia Gandhi. Jogi allegedly told BJP leaders, with whom he was in touch, that he had the Congress president’s mandate to split the BJP and help the breakaway faction form the government.
The Congress high command is now seething because these purported recordings show Jogi colluding with the BJP against his own party, that too just months after the Lok Sabha defeat. Sources said the party suspected his role all along in the Antagarh fiasco, but had no proof to confront him.
Party sources said Chhattisgarh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel will formally write to Sonia Gandhi, demanding action against Jogi since he is a member of the Congress Working Committee and the state unit cannot take action against him.
Baghel has also issued a show-cause notice to Jogi’s son Amit. The complaint, in all likelihood, will be forwarded to the A K Antony-led disciplinary committee which, party sources said, cannot afford to brush it under the carpet. “There will be action against him. Wait and watch,” a senior leader said.
Jogi was among the first chief ministers Sonia Gandhi appointed after she became president of the Congress in 1998.
He became the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh after its formation in 2000. An IAS officer, he was brought into politics by Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s. Even in 2003, his suspension was revoked within three months.
Embarrassed by the report in The Indian Express Wednesday, the Congress focused its attention on targeting Chief Minister Raman Singh, calling for his resignation. “The news is shocking. Narendra Modi has been saying na khaoonga, na khaane doonga and the BJP has been talking about corruption-free India. They talk of clean governance… And now the tape clearly says because of the underhand dealing, this has taken taken place,” AICC general secretary B K Hariprasad, who is in charge of the state, told The Indian Express.
“We knew about the state government’s role the day our candidate withdrew. We had approached the Election Commission then demanding countermanding of the polls, arguing an underhand dealing had taken place. We held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar,” he said, adding that the Congress president will take a call on Jogi.
“Once the inquiry starts, lot of things will come out… An FIR should be lodged against the Chief Minister. And for a fair probe, the CM should immediately resign,” he said.
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said: “If the role of any Congress leader comes to light in the probe, then the party will take appropriate and strong disciplinary action on the basis of the probe… We are asking the government to include our leaders also in that probe. We have no hesitation in demanding that.”
Surjewala said though the tape is yet to be authenticated, prima facie it has been established that the Chief Minister and the BJP tried to “buy candidates”.
“Our demand to the Prime Minister is to institute a probe… And if any Congress leader is found guilty… we will also take action… so that legal, criminal, social, political punishment can be given,” he said.
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