Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh was caught in a poll-fixing controversy with the election commission on Wednesday calling for an urgent inquiry into a taped conversation that alleges his son-inlaw bribed a Congress candidate to withdraw from an assembly bypoll in September 2014.
The Congress issued a showcause notice to Amit Jogi who figured in the audio tape along with his father, former CM Ajit Jogi, and other party leaders. The party high command said it was waiting for a report from its state unit to take a call on the senior Jogi.
Also, it demanded the chief minister’s resignation and a probe by a Supreme Court judge into the tapes that purportedly reveal a nexus between Singh’s son-in-law Puneet Gupta and Congress leaders — the Jogis, their loyalists Firoz Siddiqui and Ameen Memon and poll candidate Manturam Pawar.
The poll panel took note of the allegation that money was offered to the Congress candidate to pull out and wrote to the Chhattisgarh chief secretary to “urgently” order a “suitable” inquiry. “The commission should be sent a factual report in the matter, with your comments, latest by January 7,” reads its letter.
The audio tape contained conversations that allegedly reveal how the leaders “fixed” the bypoll to the Maoist-hit Antagarh assembly constituency, which the ruling BJP retained when results were declared on September 20, 2014, with the second highest number of votes going to the NOTA or none of the above option in the absence of the Congress nominee.
Voting on this seat was held along with byelections to 32 other assembly constituencies in nine states, where the BJP lost 13 of the 23 seats it held in results declared on September 16.
Congress candidate Pawar, who was subsequently expelled from the party, withdrew his candidature alle gedly on “instruction from the Jogi family to teach Baghel a lesson”.
State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel said in Raipur that the matter would be discussed with Ajit Jogi before a “complete report” is sent to the high command. Siddiqui and Memon will also be questioned.
Chief minister Singh dismissed the allegations and defended his son-in-law. “He is a government employee and has nothing to do with politics. His name is unnecessarily dragged into the incident.”
State BJP president Dharam Lal Kaushik said as much while party secretary Sidharth Nath Singh accused the Congress of targeting chief ministers of BJP-ruled states in desperation.
But the Congress, which sought Singh’s resignation in July for his alleged involvement in a Rs 36,000-crore subsidised rice scam, found new ground to target the chief minister as well as the BJP.
“The tapes prima facie prove the allegation. Keeping in view his tall promises of not allowing corruption at any cost, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately sack, dismiss or force Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh to resign,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Wednesday.
“Congress also assures that it will take appropriate action against its leaders is the probe finds anything against them,” he said.
Ajit Jogi, in his defence, called the surfacing of the audio tape a conspiracy. “It’s a false and baseless allegation. And we are moving court,” he said.
Going a step ahead, son Amit said he filed a defamation case against the newspaper and its correspondent that published the alleged conversation on Wednesday. “I have also complaint to the cyber cell of Chhattisgarh Police as the tape is doctored,” the first-time MLA said.
The Congress leadership has decided to wait for a report from the state unit before deciding on any action against Ajit Jogi “since he is a member of the Cong ress Working Committee”.