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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Middleman, partyman, businessman: The mystery of Sanjay Jain

The tapes mention “Gajendra Singh”, and though the Congress says that this is actually Shekhawat, the FIRs filed by the state government with the Rajasthan Police and Anti-Corruption Bureau do not say so.

Written by Hamza Khan | Jaipur | Updated: July 19, 2020 12:56:24 pm
Sanjay Jain, Rajasthan Congress, audio clips, jaipur news, indian express news Sanjay Jain with Governor Kalraj Mishra in Oct 2019. (Photo from Jain’s Facebook page)

At the centre of the war in the Rajasthan Congress are audio clips with conversations between three people purportedly plotting to dislodge the Ashok Gehlot government. The Congress has identified two of them as its rebel MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Little is known about the third alleged person in the tapes, and the only one arrested in the case: Sanjay Jain alias Sanjay Bardia.

The tapes mention “Gajendra Singh”, and though the Congress says that this is actually Shekhawat, the FIRs filed by the state government with the Rajasthan Police and Anti-Corruption Bureau do not say so.

As for Jain, both the BJP and Congress accuse him of being close to the other party. That is both true, and false. A native of Lunkaransar in Bikaner who shifted to Jaipur 15-20 years ago, Jain is known in the state capital’s political circles as a middleman who floated between the two parties.

Booked for “sedition” apart from criminal conspiracy by the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG), Jain was questioned on Thursday and Friday, before his subsequent arrest. On Saturday, he was presented in court, which sent him to four-day police remand.

Jain and wife Vineeta Bardia are registered as “director/key management personnel” of a company called Kuber Prime Infrastructure. Incorporated in June 2016, the company claims to be into “wholesale trade and commission trade, except for motor vehicles and motorcycles”.

The registered address of the firm, Shakambari Apartments in Jaipur’s Bani Park, is where Bardia lives with his wife and children. She refused to meet or comment on Jain’s arrest Saturday.

READ | Audio tapes: MHA seeks report as BJP calls for CBI probe into ‘phone tapping’

Jain is also one of the six “directors/signatories” at Unique Star Agro Foods Private Limited, which was incorporated in 2009. Its registered office is at another location in Bani Park.

A BJP leader from Bikaner, Surendra Singh Shekhawat, says Jain, known to him as Bardia, used to be the Lunkaransar block president of the Indian Youth Congress. Surendra Singh claims that his father Hansraj Bardia, a grain merchant, too was an office-bearer in the Block Congress. “Bardia was also close to former Congress MLA from Lunkaransar Virendra Beniwal,” Surendra Singh claims.

Asked what Jain did, he laughs, “He does what he has been arrested for.”

The Congress displayed photos of Jain with Vasundhara Raje to show that he was actually close to the former BJP chief minister. Calling Jain a BJP leader, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala sought an investigation into his role.

READ | Vasundhara Raje not in Rajasthan frame, BJP seen as keen to have fresh faces in state

In a photo put up by Jain on his Facebook page, he is with Kalraj Mishra after the latter took oath as Rajasthan Governor in September 2019. Raj Bhawan officials said they had no knowledge of Jain visiting the Governor.

Ashok Rathore, Additional Director General, SOG, told The Sunday Express, “Our focus is very limited – on the criminal act. For me it’s not important whether Jain was a millionaire or a billionaire.”

Rathore added that they had sent a team to Manesar, Haryana, to question the rebel Congress MLAs staying in a hotel there, following the questioning of Jain.

Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Alok Tripathi said they had booked Jain under the Prevention of Corruption Act. “(Government Chief Whip) Mahesh Joshi gave us a complaint on June 10. He alleged that MLAs were being lured, but there was no name (in the FIR). Yesterday Joshi recorded some statements before the investigating officer and shared some audio clips. On the basis of the report, an FIR was lodged.”

Tripathi said Joshi had given two other names besides Jain, that of MLA Sharma and Gajendra Singh.

On what will follow, the DG said, “The audio clips will be verified and sent to a Forensic Science Laboratory to see whether they have been tampered with, doctored or edited. Then we will do voice tests of the people allegedly involved.”

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