Accused of rape and facing arrest,Tehelkas Tarun Tejpal has claimed,in his bail plea,that the BJP and its government in Goa are going after him because of what he calls his commitment to secularism. And his magazines consistently adversarial journalism vis-a-vis the BJP the 2001 sting against then BJP chief Bangaru Laxman,the 2007 expose on the Sanghs footsoldiers in the Gujarat riots,and the 2010 sting against Sri Ram Sene leader Pramod Muthalik agreeing to vandalise an art exhibition in exchange for money.
In this polarised election season,coming shortly after the Gujarat snooping row which raised questions of state surveillance and a womans freedom under the Narendra Modi government Tejpals politics has put Congress in a dilemma of its own making: should it condemn his alleged crime (and,in effect,reject his BJP-conspiracy theory?) or should it use this to draw the Modi surveillance parallel (and,thus,appear soft on Tejpal?).
Most of the party spokespersons chose the latter.
Illustrative of this was Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh this evening. I know Tarun Tejpal for a long time, he said on the sidelines of Pappu Yadavs book launch. But this is also true that Tejpalji had carried out a sting operation on the then BJP President and a minister of the NDA government. After that,the manner in which people from Tejpals Tehelka institution were targeted and the way the media was strangulated during NDA government is also a historical fact…He has been fighting against communal forces.
Asked about the rape charge against him,he said it was a matter between a young journalist,an employee of Tehelka,and its editor.
Singhs stand isnt without reason. For,Tejpal has never been shy of wearing his politics on his sleeve. Consider this,from an open letter to Sonia Gandhi he wrote in his magazine shortly after UPA IIs victory in 2009: You have given us of yourself,and of your son. Now will you kindly also give unto us your luminous daughter, he wrote.
In fact,one of the first letters that the Congress President wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the UPA came to power in 2004 was on the NDAs pending probe against Tehelka. She enclosed a representation from Tejpal in her communication to Singh. Singh had promptly replied to Gandhi on June 25 that he was asking the ministries concerned to examine the cases and review their status and proposed course of action.
In the letter to Sonia,Tejpal also showered praise on Rahul Gandhi: He has humility,decorum,diligence,and he takes the long and inclusive view. We do not like the idea of dynasty,but we abhor the idea of divisiveness more. In an ideal world we would do away with everything feudal and undemocratic,but for the moment let us concentrate on getting rid of the engines of hatred.
For the Congress,these engines of hatred today are synonymous with the BJP (read Modi) and so most party spokespersons on TV,since the story broke,have been drawing Modis name into any discussion on the Tejpal case.
Senior Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi who with Shobha Oza and Union Ministers Jayanti Natarajan and Girija Vyas was fielded by the Congress to take on Modi on the Gujarat snooping row said that the Goa government has been unusually pro-active in the Tejpal case.
Let us not mix up two things, she said. As a journalist,he (Tejpal) exposed a large number of facts. That is part of his professional life. In his private life he is accused of outraging the modesty of a woman and he is not above law. These are two different things. They should not be mixed up.
Party spokesperson P C Chacko also equates the Tejpal case with the Modi snooping row. Whosoever is the person,we condemn the crime. We dont defend anybody who is on the wrong side because we dont see any politics in that. And we have made it very clear whether it is Modi or Tejpal we dont see it as a political thing.
Said party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed: Tejpal is a journalist of repute but this is a personal allegation and nobody other than him will be or is in a position to prove his innocence. Law should take its own course. He added that he was not defending Tejpal in any way.
A senior Congress leader,who did not wish to be named,was more candid: The media may be focusing on alleged sexual misdemeanor by one of its big names but we have to do our politics. We have reflected the general sentiment that it was a crime and should be dealt with legally. But our opponent is the BJP and Modi and we have to keep the snooping row alive.
SNOOPING: WEBSITE showS PICTURE
Gulail.com on Wednesday published a picture purportedly showing Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the company of IAS officer Pradeep Sharma and the woman architect allegedly monitored by Amit Shah. Gulail and Cobrapost earlier this month released transcripts of alleged conversations between Shah and IPS officer G L Singhal.