Haryana’s Minister for Power and Public Works Department Venod Sharma has sent his resignation to Congress President Sonia Gandhi to "insulate" the party from the Opposition’s attacks in the Jessica Lall case in which his son, Manu Sharma, is the key suspect.
"There is no truth to the allegations against my son," claimed Sharma. "I have sent my resignation to uphold the highest values of the Congress and insulate it from the Opposition’s attacks on an issue relating to my family with which the party has nothing to do," he told Hindustan Times.
Sharma refused to elaborate. But well placed Congress sources said he handed over his resignation from the ministerial council to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for onward transmission to the party chief.
The resignation is likely to be accepted by Sonia, who will accordingly direct the chief minister. The Congress president had taken personal interest in the case by writing to Home Minister Shivraj Patil in March this year suggesting amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code to "protect witnesses in criminal cases to ensure that they do not turn hostile."
Sonia’s letter to Patil followed the countrywide uproar over the acquittal of the Jessica Lall case accused, including Manu, for want of evidence as many witnesses to the murder turned hostile during the trial. Subsequently, Congress members in Parliament demanded that the accused be tried again.
However, the recent round of controversy over shoddy police investigations and the prosecution’s case, relates to a TV sting operation in which a witness, Karan Rajput, who has since died, was said to have received Rs 30 lakh from Venod Sharma to change his testimony against Manu.
On the face of it, Sharma’s resignation seems linked to the sting based on videotapes of conversations with other witnesses to establish his role in compromising Rajput. But the Haryana politician claimed the allegations against him were "concocted" and based on the alleged statement of a person who is no longer alive. "I have sent legal notice to the channel that aired the tapes."
It is not the first time that Venod Sharma’s political career is at risk on account of the case against his son. He had resigned as president of the Congress’ Chandigarh unit after Jessica was killed on April 29, 1999.