Tehelka report was not entirely false: Arun Jaitley
As the sting operation in 2001 on a fake defence deal had just shaken the then NDA government, its defence minister George Fernandes and his companion Jaya Jaitley were in a denial mode but the law minister of the day Arun Jaitley was sure that his party president was not all that innocent.Updated: Feb 01, 2009 11:49 IST
As the sting operation in 2001 on a fake defence deal had just shaken the then NDA government, its defence minister George Fernandes and his companion Jaya Jaitley were in a denial mode but the law minister of the day Arun Jaitley was sure that his party president was not all that innocent.
"I concluded 'yeh bilkul jhoot account nahin hai' (this is not an entirely false report)," Jaitley felt after one look at the tape the Tehelka portal had made showing then BJP president Bangaru Laxman receiving wads of currency notes in the party office from an undercover journalist.
He was called to the Prime Minister's house along with Pramod Mahajan and Venkaiah Naidu. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minister, had also called for Bangaru Laxman.
"I was sent in to grill Bangaru Laxman. I concluded 'yeh bilkul jhoota account nahin hai.' It was decided Bangaru must resign," Jaitley recounted in an interview to journalist Madhu Trehan, who has recounted it in her 587-page book 'Tehelka as a Metaphor' published by Roli Books.
Hours earlier, the Lok Sabha had to be adjourned as opposition members shouted that the word was out in every street that the government was a thief. It was almost as bad in the Rajya Sabha where the members demanded arrest of people shown on the tape.
Jaitley was in the Lok Sabha. By the time he got back to his home, his office had downloaded transcripts of the 'Operation West End' and by evening he was prepared to meet Vajpayee, who called him to his office.
Vajpayee's damage control team waited for Fernandes to arrive. Fernandes delayed the meeting. It was reported that Fernandes did strongly propose that the government should fight it out and he didn't resigned following Jaya Jaitley's advice to him.
The following day, a contrary buzz was generated by the government's spin doctors that Fernandes had offered to resign, the book says.
In another interview to the author, Fernandes said everyone of his colleagues told him that he should not resign. Jaitley (Jaya) also asked him why he should resign.
"But by now there was an orchestration by the other side; that is, by the Congress, the Marxists and such others allied to them. It started with the government should resign.
"I was not prepared that this government should go and I decided that I shall resign and fight it out. Because I knew that there was nothing in it and all that I needed to do was present the facts and that was all," he said.
Fernandes said he thought his resignation would save the government which was under attack.
Asked if in retrospect he felt it was a big mistake to resign because it undermined his ability to fight back, he said, "It undermined the fightback, hurt a lot of people who should not have been hurt, one of them being Jaya Jaitley.
"I do feel that the resignation was the biggest mistake. One should have slugged it out and shown these fellows their place," he said.
First Published: Feb 01, 2009 11:48 IST