Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat was at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters in Delhi on Tuesday morning for questioning in a “sting operation” that purportedly shows him offering bribes to buy MLAs’ support in a trust vote.
After several denials, Rawat had accepted that it was him in the video but denied any wrongdoing. The “sting “ video, shot by a Noida-based private TV channel, has him making the offer to rebel Congress lawmakers ahead of a March 28 floor test, which eventually didn’t get go ahead as the state was brought under President’s Rule. The rebel MLAs, who stand disqualified, released the video on March 26.
Rawat, who returned as CM on May 12 after winning a trust vote ordered by the Supreme Court, will have following questions to answer:
1. Does he know journalist Umesh Kumar who conducted the sting? Does he also know the dissident Congress MLA who has claimed that Rawat offered him R2.5 crore in exchange for support during the March 28 floor test that never took place? Did he ask one of his ministers to approach the legislator?
2. Can he confirm or deny his presence in the 22-minute sting video?
(Rawat may accept his “presence” but could say the horse-trading talk is not genuine)
3. What was he -- as chief minister -- doing at the hangar of Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport, where the video was shot? If the meeting was planned, what was it for? Did he keep his office and security staff informed?
4. The video purportedly has Rawat saying he can’t pay crores of rupees to each of the rebel MLAs, but they could be “compensated” with lucrative vibhag, or portfolios, and make money while he would look away. He will have to explain his comment.
5. What did Rawat mean by offering to “top-up” the journalist’s offer to contribute money to lure the legislators? Was the “top-up” plan a reference to lucrative assignments?