From the 2001 Operation West End on “murky” defence deals that pleased the Congress, embarrassed the Vajpayee government and tarnished the reputation of then Defence Minister George Fernandes who had to resign only to be reinstated later, the wheel seems to have come a full circle.
Another sting operation has hit the headlines. But it is the BJP — whose then president Bangaru Laxman was caught on camera taking a bribe — that is smiling this time and the Congress and its allies who’ve been caught unawares. And Fernandes was present in the House on Tuesday to witness this reversal of fortunes!
Interestingly, the BJP in 2001 had rubbished the Tehelka tapes as motivated and planted by the Congress just as the Congress is today saying these allegations are a BJP conspiracy.
Interrupting the debate on the trust motion, BJP MPs rushed into the well of the House, displaying bundles of currency notes, claiming these were bribes offered to three party MPs to switch loyalties. Reports soon came in of a tape showing SP and Congress leaders seeking to bribe these MPs which had been submitted to Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
Seven years ago, Operation West End was carried out by Tehelka to highlight purported corruption in defence deals. The sting operation showed political figures and the army brass colluding to get deals approved. The tapes showed the national treasurer of the then Samata Party RK Jain make claims of influencing defence deals. The government-appointed Phukan Commission later exonerated Fernandes but he remained a target of Opposition parties who said he had been shielded.