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Ajit Jogi’s son expelled from Cong after row over ‘poll-rigging’ tape

A political storm erupted in the state after the audio tape containing telephonic talks purportedly between Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh’s son-in-law Puneet Gupta, Ajit, his son Amit and then Ajit loyalists Firoz Siddiqui and Ameen Memon surfaced, alleging their involvement in “fixing” the by-poll to the Antagarh assembly seat.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2016 19:03 IST
Ejaz Kaiser
Ejaz Kaiser
Hindustan Times
The Congress’ Chhattisgarh unit also recommended to the All India Congress Committee that Ajit Jogi be suspended for six years over the controversy.
The Congress’ Chhattisgarh unit also recommended to the All India Congress Committee that Ajit Jogi be suspended for six years over the controversy.(PTI Photo)

The Congress on Wednesday expelled Chhattisgarh MLA Amit Jogi for six years over his alleged role in fixing a by-election that led to a BJP win, a move aimed at plugging deep fault lines within the party in the tribal state.

The party’s top state panel recommended that the legislator’s father and former chief minister Ajit Jogi also be suspended, about a week after leaked audio clips suggested the two leaders tried to broker a deal for the BJP so the Congress candidate would withdraw from the fray.

“I’m hurt. The decision to expel me without proving the allegations against me is biased and unfair,” Amit Jogi said.

After making the announcement, the opposition party dared the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sack chief minister Raman Singh whose son-in-law Puneet Gupta is also purportedly heard in the tapes.

“Congress Party has taken action against one of its leaders. Will Modiji now show the courage of his conviction by seeking Raman Singh’s resignation or sacking him?” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

Sources at the Congress headquarters in Delhi said the party’s disciplinary committee, headed by former defence minister AK Antony, will review the recommendations about the former CM.

“But Ajit Jogi is likely to be expelled. If his son is expelled over some allegations, then the same yardstick should also apply to Jogi,” said a senior Congress leader.

Last year, Congress candidate Manturam Pawar had abruptly pulled out of the contest at the Antagarh assembly seat a day before the final date of withdrawal of names. The election was won by the BJP. Pawar was expelled from the Congress and he joined the BJP in March.

The tapes sparked a huge political storm in Chhattisgarh with state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel serving a show-cause notice to Amit Jogi last month, while the Jogis and CM Raman Singh have denied any involvement.

The Election Commission too had asked the state chief secretary to “urgently” set up an inquiry and submit a report by January 7, hours after the audio clips surfaced on December 30.

The controversy comes more than a decade after the Congress suspended Ajit Jogi from the party when the BJP released an audiotape that suggested he tried to buy BJP MLAs to form a new government.