Capt asked me to sign affidavit to bail him out of land scam: Bir Devinder
The war of words between Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh and party’s senior leader Bir Devinder Singh, who resigned from the post of party’s media panel coordinator on Wednesday, has opened a can of worms on the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam case, in which Amarinder, who was the chief minister then, is an accused.punjab Updated: Mar 31, 2016 10:56 IST
The war of words between Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh and party’s senior leader Bir Devinder Singh, who resigned from the post of party’s media panel coordinator on Wednesday, has opened a can of worms on the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam case, in which Amarinder, who was the chief minister then, is an accused.
Alleging blackmail by Amarinder, Bir Devinder has made startling revelations claiming that the former offered him a “quid-pro-quo” (a minister’s post after he becomes the chief minister) soon after winning the Lok Sabha election against Arun Jaitley from Amritsar. “Amarinder had called me to his Moti Bagh Palace to thank me for helping him in the Amritsar elections. Former Punjab finance minister Surinder Singla was also present. After a round of drinks, two Supreme Court lawyers, Atul Nanda and his wife, joined us and Amarinder asked me to sign an affidavit. I was shocked to read it. It negated all that I have said on the case before the special committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. It was my starred question on which the whole case was based and the affidavit wanted me to admit that it was all based on misrepresentation of facts and Amarinder never met or called me to settle the case as the CM. I told Amarinder that cannot sign it as it will amount to perjury and I, who has been honoured as a best parliamentarian and have presided over the House as a deputy speaker, could not undermine the dignity of the House,” Bir Devinder told HT in an exclusive interview.
The former deputy speaker said he started getting summons from DIG vigilance Rajinder Singh to give his statement after the Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered reinvestigation into the case on December 22, 2014, on a petition moved by Amarinder’s counsel. After many calls, the DIG later sent an SMS to Bir Devinder on September 9, 2015, asking him to fix a date for the statement saying a report had to be submitted in the HC.
“After I got the message of the vigilance DIG for recording my statement, I tried to contact Amarinder but could not. Later, through his close aide, I delivered the message and got a call. Amarinder asked me not to give any statement to the vigilance till he spoke to his lawyers. Amarinder’s close aide Bharat Inder Singh Chahal then came into the picture. He visited my house in February and requested me to end the case, asking me to give a favourable statement. Chahal told me we would fix the date and time with the vigilance DIG, who was in constant touch with him (Chahal). He later made me speak to Amarinder on the phone. But I told Chahal that I will not give any statement without meeting Amarinder. Later on February 14, Chahal invited me to his house where he produced a written statement, asking me to sign it. He told me a meeting with Amarinder was possible only after I gave the statement. I refused to sign the statement and took it from him. He asked me to return it and I did so to avoid a scuffle,” Bir Devinder said.
The two-time MLA and former deputy speaker did not receive the summons on February 29 this year, when a vigilance inspector came to his residence in Patiala to deliver them asking him to appear for recording his statement at the Punjab vigilance bureau headquarters in Chandigarh on March 4. Bir Devinder did not accept the summons saying, he needed to see the HC judgment that had ordered the reinvestigation. It is no co-incidence, says Bir Devinder, that the Ghanaur rally of Madan Lal Jalalpur was announced for March 7.
“Chahal called me up in first week of March saying how will I get a ticket to contest elections if I did not give the statement in Amarinder’s favour. He said the rally can be cancelled even overnight. I told him I will not give in to such blackmail and why was the meeting being linked to the case. I did not know the wires of the case were linked to the CM when I had raised the issue in the Punjab assembly against then local bodies minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh,” Bir Devinder said.
When contacted, Amarinder rebutted Bir Devinder’s accusations saying the latter was eyeing the Ghanaur assembly seat, which he had refused to allot to him. “He is telling absolute lies. Surinder Singla was trying to bring us close. I did thank him for helping me in Amritsar elections as he is a good speaker and used to speak at my rallies, but I don’t remember calling him to Moti Bagh Palace and I never asked him to sign any affidavit. How can I ask him to withdraw his statement on a case which had gone up to the Supreme Court constitutional bench? What is his locus-standi in the case after the HC has ruled that the House committee report should not form the basis of the first information report registered in the case and it needs to be reinvestigated. He is lying that he did not know the case was linked to me. As the CM, I had put my consent on the file on Amritsar land case after getting the advocate general’s nod. He is a disgruntled person and had joined hands with the Akalis to throw me out of the assembly after I removed him from deputy speaker’s post as the CM as he had made it difficult for the speaker to function. Chahal has nothing to do with my case,” Amarinder said.
Amarinder also questioned which Congress CM Bir Devinder got along with. “Be it Darbara Singh, Beant Singh or me, he has challenged everyone. He is now trying to blackmail me for the Ghanaur seat. In good faith, I made him in-charge of the media panel. Instead of handling his work, he is busy harming the party,” Amarinder added.
‘I had resigned, was not removed’
Bir Devinder countered Amarinder’s rebuttal saying he had resigned from the deputy speaker’s post as Amarinder was “exerting undue pressure” on him. “Who is the CM to remove a deputy speaker? My resignation was not accepted for over a month and later I was awarded the best parliamentarian award.
Amarinder is saying the Ghanour seat belongs to former MLA (Madan Lal), how is he offering me Sirhind seat which belongs to a sitting MLA? You can’t counter a dead man or a liar. I have paid a heavy price for raising the issue and was denied tickets in 2007 and 2012 elections. My political career is still at stake even after all these years,” he added.