Journalist’s arrest: Congress accuses BJP of squeezing press freedom
Senior Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken demanded a judicial probe into allegations levelled by a Patidar leader in Gujarat that the BJP had bribed him to join the party.Updated: Oct 27, 2017 18:37 IST
Training guns at the BJP over the arrest of senior journalist Vinod Verma on charges of extortion, the Congress accused it on Friday of squeezing press freedom and demanded immediate release of the scribe.
Senior Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken also demanded a judicial probe into the “serious sex-related allegations” against a Chhattisgarh minister, which, he added, were being investigated by the journalist.
He also demanded a judicial probe into allegations levelled by a Patidar leader in Gujarat that the BJP had bribed him to join the party.
Referring to Verma’s arrest, Maken said, “The Narendra Modi-led central government and the Chhattisgarh government have been attacking, squeezing press freedom...We strongly condemn Verma’s arrest and demand that he be released immediately and a judicial probe into the allegations against the state minister announced.”
Verma, who earlier worked with the BBC Hindi service and Amar Ujala, has claimed that the Chhattisgarh police is not happy with him as he has a “sex CD” of a minister of that state.
He was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police from his Ghaziabad residence at around 3.30 am Friday on charges of blackmailing and extortion. Around 500 CDs with pornographic contents, Rs 2 lakh in cash, a pen drive, a laptop and a diary were seized from his house.
Citing other cases of attacks on mediapersons, Maken said Verma’s arrest should not be seen as a “one-off” incident. Noting that Verma was also a member of the Editors’ Guild, the Congress leader wondered whether a junior journalist would dare do investigative stories after the way the former was picked up from his residence late at night just because “he was probing the allegations against a state minister”.
Hitting out at the BJP over an audio tape circulated by Gujarat’s Patidar leader Narendra Patel to back his recent allegation that the ruling party had bribed him to join the saffron camp, Maken questioned why no FIR was lodged against BJP president Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and two others in this regard.
He called for a judicial probe into the matter and demanded that the Election Commission (EC) take cognisance of the issue.
On Patel’s claims, Maken said since the Model Code of Conduct was in force in Gujarat, the EC should take suo motu (on its own motion) cognisance of the issue and take necessary action “based on the tape”.
After accusing the BJP of trying to “buy” him, Patel had yesterday circulated an audio recording of his purported telephonic conversation with his associate Varun Patel to back his charge.
Varun Patel had joined the BJP after quitting the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) on October 21.
“The question is why no FIR is registered against Amit Shah, Vijay Rupani, (Gujarat BJP chief) Jitu Vaghani and Varun Patel? Why no judicial probe has been announced? What is the reason that the prime minister, Shah, Rupani are tight-lipped on the issue?” Maken asked.
Asked if the Congress would approach the EC over the issue, he replied saying, “Yes, if the commission does not act in the case.”
The Congress leader also said the audio tape would be presented before a local court, which would hear the matter next week.
Asked about media reports on an audio tape of a purported conversation between the prime minister and a ward-level BJP worker from Gujarat going viral, Maken suggested that the clip was leaked deliberately as a part of “self-promotion”.
“We are getting to learn new marketing techniques. There cannot be a better example of self-promotion than this. But, the people very well understand such techniques. Use of such techniques will be answered in the Gujarat polls,” he added.
According to media reports, Modi and the BJP worker are heard exchanging Diwali greetings and discussing the saffron party’s chances of winning the Gujarat Assembly polls in the audio clip.
The Gujarat polls are scheduled to be held in two phases — on December 9 and 14.
Maken also welcomed the Delhi High Court’s rejection of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea, seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar.
“I think those levelling allegations against Shashi Tharoor sahab should keep quite (after the court order). There is nothing left for them to say,” he said.
The Delhi High Court had yesterday rejected Swamy’s plea and described his PIL as a “textbook example of a political interest litigation”.
A bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice IS Mehta had also chastised the BJP leader and his lawyer for making “sweeping allegations” in the petition against Tharoor and the Delhi Police, without giving any basis for these accusations.