The political storm over the mysterious death of a National Conference worker continued to rock Jammu and Kashmir Friday with chief minister Omar Abdullah on Friday denying any wrong doing and accused the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of trying to influence eye-witnesses.
National Conference worker Sayeed Muhammad Yousuf died on Sep 30, a day after he was summoned to the chief minister's residence here to answer allegations that he took bribes to arrange for political posts.
"Yousuf was a crook and I dealt with him transparently," Omar Abdullah told news channel NDTV Friday, but added "nobody even touched Yousuf with a finger" while he was at the chief minister's residence.
He also said Yousuf died of a heart attack 12 hours after visiting his residence.
Meanwhile, a National Conference worker, who alleged having paid Rs.85 lakh to get himself a legislative council berth, broke his silence and denied the payoff was made either to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah or his father, Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
Muhammad Yusuf Bhat, a party block president, had been living out of the media glare ever since he complained to Omar Abdullah Sep 29 that Yousuf had taken the money from him.
Speaking to the news channel, Omar accused the PDP led by former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed of trying to influence the eye-witnesses to make them speak against the NC and its leaders. The chief minster denied the PDP allegations that Yousuf was very close to him or his father, former chief minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
"Yousuf was only as close to our family as any other NC worker."
Yousuf had been summoned to the chief minister's residence here Sep 29 along with two other NC workers, Abdul Salam Rishi of Akingam (Kokernag) and Muhammad Yusuf Bhat of Ganderbal, who alleged Yousuf had taken Rs 1.18 crore from them for getting one a minister's berth and the other a legislator's seat.
Rishi has raked up a huge controversy by his disclosures that Yousuf had been taken to a room at the chief minister's residence for nearly half an hour, after which he came out but was "visibly unwell".
Rishi also told media that Yousuf had told the chief minister that the amount he had taken from Bhat (Rs.85 lakh) had been given by him to Farooq Abdullah.
The chief minister, however, admitted that Rishi had informed him about two months back that he had paid money to Yousuf.
"It is only human... It slipped off my mind. I forgot to take immediate action."
"I am not losing sleep and have no regrets for handling the situation the way I did," Omar maintained.
The chief minister said he was eager for the judicial probe to start quickly so that the truth is brought to light.
The chief minister also denied the incident had any connection with the transfer of some police officers detailed on his security on the day he summoned the three NC workers to his residence.
Meanwhile, refuting the allegations that the PDP was in close touch with the eye-witnesses to influence them, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti criticised both New Delhi and the state government.
"New Delhi has double standards. He (Omar) seems to get away with it. He has acted with highhandedness and now puts the blame on PDP," she said here.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Yusuf Bhat told a local news agency KNS, that he paid money to Yousuf. "I paid money to Sayeed Yousuf, but I can't say it was for Omar Abdullah or Dr. Farooq. It is a fact I paid money to Sayeed Yousuf for getting MLC (member of legislative council) berth," Bhat said at his guarded residence at Rapore village in Ganderbal district.
Asked to comment on the allegations of Rishi that Yousuf had told the chief minister that the money had been paid to Dr Farooq, Bhat said: "I cannot comment on what Salam Rishi said. But, I did not pay money to either Omar Abdullah or Dr. Farooq Abdullah."
According to the news agency, Bhat declined to comment on what happened at the chief minister's residence on Sep 29 where he had been summoned along with Yousuf and Rishi.
"I will say what I have to say before the judicial commission. The people know the truth," he said.