Deposed Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat hoped on Saturday for a fair CBI probe into the sting video that allegedly shows him brokering a deal to buy over nine rebel Congress lawmakers.
The video released by the nine MLAs at a press conference in New Delhi in March was conducted by Umesh Sharma, the editor-in-chief of a Dehradun-based TV channel.
“I welcome the CBI probe into the sting video, provided it is carried out impartially,” Rawat told reporters in a veiled attack on the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.
The opposition BJP countered that the CBI probe will help validate the party’s sustained campaign against graft in the Congress government, which was ousted on March 27 and the hills state brought under central rule.
“Such an outcome will help create a public perception favourable for the BJP as a party that is genuinely fighting against corruption,” state BJP president Ajay Bhatt told Hindustan Times.
Senior BJP leader and former assembly speaker Prakash Pant said his party has long been highlighting corruption in the Rawat government.
For his part, Rawat said if online clips from the video are anything to go by, the sting exposes a clear conspiracy to bring down his government.
“The video reveals a crime against the state … So a CBI probe should also be ordered against the journalist as well as persons involved in that conspiracy he clearly names,” he said.
He was referring to “Sharma and all those characters the latter names during his conversation”.
Rawat said the clips show Sharma saying that rebel Congress leader Vijay Bahuguna was the architect of the conspiracy to dislodge the government.
“He (Sharma) says the operation (to dislodge the Rawat government) was finalised following a meeting of Saket with Kailash Vijayvargiya,” he said, referring to former chief minister Bahuguna’s son and the BJP national general secretary.
“’Saket is a professional person … he used to act as a setter (broker) for Bahuguna till the latter remained the chief minister and became a cause of his government’,” Rawat quoted Sharma as saying in the video.
The Rawat government plunged into crisis after nine of his lawmakers sided with the BJP when the assembly was debating the money bill. This subsequently led to imposition of President’s rule in the state.
“If he is the same Saket who is former chief minister Bahuguna’s son, then a setter continued to operate his (chief minister) official residence,” Rawat said.
The former chief minister took a jibe at Sharma too, saying the video uploaded on social media shows him saying that he could offer Rs 15 crore. “Where he brought so much money from is a matter of investigation,” he said.
Senior BJP leader Pant dismissed the ousted Congress chief minister’s allegations, saying his government had played into the hands of “land, liquor and mining mafia”.
“If the CBI probe validates the sting video the people will realise that our campaign against the Rawat government was not baseless,” Pant said. “If that happens, the false public perception that we toppled the Rawat government will instantaneously change.”
Pant said the scope of the CBI probe will not remain confined to the sting. “It will be further widened to bring within its ambit the corruption charges relating to illegal mining and illicit liquor trade against the Rawat government.”
He was referring to another sting video in which Rawat’s former secretary Mohammad Shahid was caught negotiating a multi-crore deal with a liquor trader. “Rawat will be completely exposed, which will definitely benefit our party in the 2017 assembly polls.”