On a day the Congress dismissed BJP charges that the party was trying to shield Tarun Tejpal, senior party leader Digvijaya Singh struck a discordant note by saying “the Tehelka editor had been fighting the communal forces for a long time and had exposed them through sting operations”.
“I have known Tarun Tejpal for a long time. It is a fact he carried out a sting operation on then BJP president (Bangaru Laxman) and a minister in the NDA government. But the manner in which people from Tehelka were jailed and the way media was gagged after that by the NDA government is also a historical fact,” Singh told reporters at the sidelines of a function here.
Earlier, Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala rejected the charge that the party had been soft on Tejpal.
“The Congress and UPA government were committed to protecting the safety and dignity of every woman. Whether she is being stalked by a chief minister or whether her person is being violated by a journalist editor – both need to be punished,” Surjewala said.
On her part, Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza said the party has “zero tolerance” against atrocities on women.
“From day one in the Tejpal case, we have made it clear that the Congress does not defend such behavior,” she said.
Singh has been known to take a view that is divergent from the party line on several occasions in the past.
Refusing to go into the merits of the case against Tejpal, Singh said the matter was “between a young employee of Tehelka and its editor in chief”.
“I cannot give a comment on that,” he said.
Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj tweeted that “a Union Cabinet minister who is the founder and patron of Tehelka is shielding Tarun Tejpal”.
The war of words between the Congress and BJP escalated soon after that, with law minister Kapil Sibal hitting t back at BJP and RSS, accusing them of vilifying him because he had been targeting BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi.
Singh also trashed Modi’s national ambitions, saying it was “ironical that an individual accused of deaths of thousands of people in 2002 was today aspiring to become the country’s prime minister”.
Singh was speaking at the release of former Bihar MP Pappu Yadav’s autobiography “Drohkaal Ka Pathik”, which claims that MPs of the party floated by him, Indian Federal Democratic Party, received money from then finance minister Yashwant Sinha to join the NDA in 2001.
Sinha has rubbished these claims, describing the charges as “scurrilous and useless”.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was present at the book release function, assured support to the five-time MP from Bihar in his future political struggles.