A day after he virtually gave a clean chit to Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia in the drug scandal, Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar on Thursday made a U-turn on his statement in the Assembly that had left his own party red-faced and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP coalition smiling with glee.
"My words have been put across in many ways. I deny that…" a visibly embarrassed Jakhar told newspersons at the press lounge outside the Vidhan Sabha, adding: "My clean chit does not mean anything. I have not given any clean chit to anybody."
Asked pointedly whether he believed that Majithia was involved in the drug racket as alleged by the arrested druglord Jagdish Singh Bhola on January 6, Jakhar evaded a direct reply. "Majithia is protecting those involved in the drug racket, and he is morally bound to step down," he said in a desperate bid to wriggle out of his flip-flop on the hot-button issue that his party hopes to exploit to corner the Akalis in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
What Jakhar said in the House
Jakhar's about-turn notwithstanding, official records of Wednesday's Vidhan Sabha proceedings accessed by Hindustan Times make it amply clear that Jakhar while broaching on the drugs issue in the House had virtually let Majithia off the hook. His exact words were:"Speaker sahib mere saathi shayad khush naa haun (my friends may not pleased …) but I am very fond of Bikram Singh Majithia as a person and I hope and believe that he is not himself involved in drugs trade. I am saying this on the floor of the House."
His words left little doubt that Jakhar had taken a stand contrary to that of state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa who has been directly accusing Majitha as "king pin" of the Bhola drug scandal.
Interestingly, on the floor of Vidha Sabha, Jakhar knew well that his statement wouldn't go well with his own party colleagues. "Mere log naaraz honge (My colleagues will get angry)… but he (Majithia) is equally guilty of a far bigger crime of shielding those people who are perpetuating it, who are drug dealers," he had said.
It is an open secret that in the Congress factional war, Jakhar has been in the anti-Bajwa camp spearheaded by Capt Amarinder Singh, who had stridently opposed Bajwa's demand for transfer of police probe into the Bhola drug racket to the CBI.
Majithia all praise for CLP leader
Reacting to Jakhar's U-turn , Majithia said: "I have great respect and admiration for Sunil Jakhar. He is a gentleman politician. What he said on Wednesday in the Vidhan Sabha came from his heart. However, what he has stated on Thursday seems to be the result of pressure mounted by his bosses from Delhi."
On March 5: "I am very fond of Majithia as a person and I hope and believe that he is not himself involved in drugs trade"
On March 6: "I haven't given a clean chit to Majithia. He is protecting those involved in the drug racket."