The ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh has been left red in the face after the CBI arrested a senior Income-Tax official and her husband who is the co-convener of party’s national election cell. The arrest was made on a complaint from another BJP leader, a builder who alleged that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 25 lakh to avoid penalty and that the deal was struck at the party headquarters.
The CBI arrested deputy commissioner Poonam Rai, an IRS officer of the 2007 batch, and her husband Ganesh Malviya after the first instalment of Rs 10 lakh was paid to a tax consultant and the money was taken to the couple’s house in I-T Colony in Bharatnagar late Friday. The couple and two others were remanded in CBI custody for three days on Saturday.
In-charge of BJP’s culture cell Rajesh Singh Bhadoria, who runs a building construction company, alleged that Malviya called him on March 18 and quoting his wife told him that he would have to pay a bribe of Rs 25 lakh to avoid hefty penalty because his tax assessment was faulty. Bhadoria said after meeting Malviya in the party’s headquarters he met his wife, who confirmed that he will have to pay that amount or be prepared for the penalty.
The deal was eventually struck at Rs 18 lakh and Bhadoria was asked to pay Rs 10 lakh at a consultant’s office in M P Nagar. Bhadoria approached the CBI who laid a trap. Malviya had sent an employee of an NGO he runs to collect the money. Pretending to be an employee of the consultant, a bureau official accompanied the NGO employee to the couple’s home where Malviya was taken into custody. Poonam was nabbed from her office and taken to her home around midnight.
Bhadoria told The Sunday Express that Malviya called him to the BJP office twice and the meeting took place on March 18. He claimed that he did not know Malviya before and later learnt that he was acting as a broker on behalf of his wife.
Malviya’s name figured on the official website as co-convener of the national election cell but the name was removed on Saturday after the information about the CBI raid became public. The BJP suspended Malviya late Saturday. The BJP leadership avoided commenting on the issue except saying anyone found guilty will be punished. While Malviya is a supporter of organisation secretary Arvind Menon, Bhadoria is believed to enjoy the backing of state BJP chief Narendra Tomar.
The Congress went on the offensive alleging that the money was being collected by the BJP to fund the election.
Releasing photographs that show Malviya posing with party’s prime ministerial candidate and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan among other BJP leaders, Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare alleged that the racket in extortion became public only after a party leader was asked to pay bribe and he approached the CBI.