Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat admitted on Sunday his presence in a sting video that allegedly shows him negotiating a deal with a journalist to lure dissident Congress lawmakers back into the party.
But he dared his critics to hang him in public if the video contained evidence of him making any offer in cash or kind to gain support of the lawmakers who revolted against him.
“Hang me on the clock tower (in Dehradun) if I had done wrong,” he said.
The contents of the video have been one of the reasons cited by the Centre to remove Rawat from power and bring the hill state under President’s rule on March 27. The Congress government plunged into crisis after nine party MLAs broke ranks and sided with the opposition BJP.
“Agar unhoney ne kuch baat man behlane le leye keh deye ho to maine bhi do shabd man behlane ke leye keh deye (Journalist was saying something to pass his time and I also said two words to pass time, what’s wrong in it?),” the former chief minister said.
The statement dismissed doubts about his meeting with journalist Umesh Kumar, the editor of a private regional TV channel, who made the sting video.
He has all along been insisting that the video was a fake. But hours after the CBI summoned Kumar, he accepted that he was indeed there in the video.
Rawat is allegedly heard saying in the video that he can offer only Rs 5 crore to the dissidents. The journalist reportedly said he could manage another Rs 15 crore.
“Why a person will invest Rs 15 crores for me … I was talking to rebels as they were still part of our party and in politics channels are never blocked,” the Congress leader said on Sunday.
Central rule was imposed in the state on March 27, a day after the sting video was aired across media platforms.
The CBI started preliminary investigations on Friday. Besides the journalist, the agency has questioned Kunwar Pranav Champion, one of the rebel lawmakers who circulated the video in New Delhi. He has alleged that Rawat tried to lure him with the deputy chief minister’s post.