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They created a moral bubble,now their leader is exposed: Bangaru Laxman

Laxman was the target of Tehelka’s first sting operation in 2001.

When Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal sought anticipatory bail earlier this week after a colleague accused him of sexual assault,former BJP president Bangaru Laxman was prominently mentioned in his petition.

Laxman was the target of Tehelka’s first sting operation in 2001 and was shown accepting a wad of currency from journalists posing as arms dealers,resulting in a major loss of face for the then NDA government.

They created a moral bubble,now their leader stands exposed,says Tehelka’s first victim Bangaru.

The bail plea said it was being alluded by some that Goa’s BJP government was pursuing the alleged rape case as “payback”.

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Twelve years on,Laxman is confined to a wheelchair due to poor health but has been watching the news keenly since Tejpal hit the headlines.

“I just heard that Tejpal wants time until Saturday to face the Goa police. If he is the courageous journalist who stood for some morals,what is he afraid of?” Laxman,now 73 years old,asked when The Indian Express met him Thursday at his modest flat in the MLA-MP Colony in Jubilee Hills,Hyderabad.

“I think he and Tehelka wanted to clean the system,root out corruption. They put themselves on a high moral ground. But they themselves are not above it. It took a brave woman colleague of Tejpal to expose it,’’ he said.

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Laxman had to pay a huge price after the sting. He had to step down as party president,was banished into the political wilderness and eventually tried,convicted and sentenced to four years in jail in April 2012. He challenged the conviction and was freed on bail in October 2012.

Laxman has been advised complete rest by his doctors. He reads a little and occasionally flips through news TV channels but since Tejpal became the news,Laxman has been lapping up all details of the case from a newspaper and on TV.

“I am not keeping well so I am at home most of the time these days. I spent several months in hospitals because I am unable to move my legs. It is a life in exile,’’ he said.

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“Someone asked me if I am happy about it,” he said,referring to the Tejpal case. “It is not about that. Tehelka created its own bubble of uprightness and morals and went about conducting sting operations on people as if they were hardcore criminals to gather evidence using unethical methods.

“But now its leader himself has been exposed. He himself does not have any morals. I did not ask for the Rs 1 lakh which I was caught accepting. The undercover journalists trapped me into accepting it as a party fund.

“I have paid a very heavy price due to that entrapment. Whenever the BJP attacked the UPA over corruption,whether it is Bofors or 3G or coalgate,my name was pointed out by Congress leaders. I became a scapegoat,’’ he said bitterly.

“I read that Goa’s mining mafia funded Tehelka’s Think fest,” he added.

Laxman said the sting operation aimed to dislodge the then Vajpayee government and alleged that the congress was behind it.

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“I was elected BJP president in September 2000 and this happened sometime in

December-January. That means I had not even settled into my position as party president. Before that,I was not so well known in the corridors of power of Delhi. They chose me only to take advantage of my innocence to conduct a sting. I was not known as a notorious person who needed to be exposed,” he said. “The entire Congress media department was behind it.”

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At the same time,Laxman also rued that his own party did not support him as much as he expected it to.

Asked if he was in touch with Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in connection with the Tejpal case,Laxman said: “Why should I speak to Parrikar or why should he speak to me? The law is running its course. Tejpal appears to be trying every trick to evade the law. Did the BJP ask him to go to Goa to commit this atrocity?”

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“The incident in Goa is not the first of its kind. They have been doing such things in the past. It had come to light before the Venkataswamy Commission (inquiring into the 2001 sting) that they used call girls to trap an Army officer. They had agreed that they had stooped to such level.”

First published on: 30-11-2013 at 03:32 IST
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