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Another video stings Uttarakhand, Rawat says Cong leaders threatened

Deposed chief minister Harish Rawat defended the party by saying that the Modi government was using money and blackmail strategies to “murder” democracy in the state, and openly indulge in horse-trading.

india Updated: May 09, 2016 01:42 IST
Anupam Trivedi
Anupam Trivedi
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat addressing a press conference in Dehradun on Thursday.
Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat addressing a press conference in Dehradun on Thursday. (PTI photo)

An Uttarakhand Congress MLA was reportedly seen admitting to bribery in a sting video released on Sunday, further sullying deposed chief minister Harish Rawat’s political image two days ahead of a crucial trust vote.

The sting, aired by regional news channel Samachar Plus, showed Congress MLA Madan Bisht allegedly telling rebel MLA Harak Singh Rawat that he was instrumental in providing lakhs of rupees to 12 Congress legislators – including deputy speaker AP Maikhuri – on behalf of the deposed chief minister.

Bisht is heard saying that Rawat gave Rs 25 lakh to a few MLAs, and Rs 50 lakh to Maikhuri. The MLA reportedly goes on to claim that he did not collect a salary, but took anywhere between Rs 5-10 lakh a month from the former chief minister whenever he wanted.

The sting video also showed Bisht stating that district magistrates and superintendents of police take Rs 1 lakh every month for clearing trucks involved in illegal quarrying. Rawat made as much as Rs 27 crore from selling quarrying pattas (permits), he further claimed.

Read: Fearing poaching, Congress sends MLAs into hiding

Minutes before the sting was aired, the Congress MLA sent a complaint to the Rajpur police station in Dehradun.

The signed document, a copy of which is with HT, claimed that both Harak Singh and the BJP were pressurising him to stand against the Congress in the May 10 trust vote. “I am being threatened (by BJP and Harak Singh to vote against Congress)… I request to file case against (them),” the complaint stated.

HT’s efforts to contact Bisht went in vain.

This sting video – the second in two months – comes at a time when the Congress is trying to pose a united face against the BJP and the rebel MLAs ahead of the trust vote on Tuesday.

Two days before a trust vote was supposed to take place on March 26, a sting purportedly showed Rawat inking a deal to lure Harak Singh and the others back into the party fold. The Central Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the case, has summoned the deposed chief minister before it on Monday.

Defending himself at a press conference in Dehradun, Rawat alleged that a full-scale operation against the Congress – headed by rebel leader Vijay Bahuguna and actively backed by the BJP government at the Centre – was being undertaken in the state.

“Our leaders are being targeted, and threatening messages are being sent. I’m being watched, and attempts are being made to curb my personal freedom. They are tapping not just my phone lines, but also of those close to me,” he said.

He claimed that the Modi government was using money and blackmail strategies to “murder” democracy in the state, and openly indulge in horse-trading.

“I ask the enlightened citizens of Uttarakhand to not fall prey to such gimmicks, and raise their voices against it. I want to tell the BJP to stop playing divisive politics and rein in their agents of hatred and violence,” Rawat added.

The deposed chief minister vowed that after the floor test, he would “wage a war against blackmailers” to save democracy and eradicate the scourge of horse-trading once and for all.

Maikhuri, who was said to have taken Rs 50 lakh, told HT that he was “shocked” at the allegation. “What to say…anyone taking anyone’s name… I have no words,” he said.

Read: Cong, BJP issue whips to MLAs ahead of floor test on May 10

Party president Kishor Upadhyay also expressed surprise at the supposed revelation. “The politics here has touched a new nadir. It was a conversation between two people, and the Congress has nothing to do with it. The people can see and understand how efforts are being made to malign us,” he told HT.

The BJP, meanwhile, lost no time in accusing the Congress of corruption. “The sting has proved our allegation that Rawat is paying money to save the government,” party president Ajay Bhatt said.

Both the BJP and channel editor-in-chief Umesh Kumar have demanded that the Congress MLAs named in the video be subjected to narco tests.

The Rawat government was reduced to a minority on March 18, after nine rebel Congress MLAs sided with the BJP on the Appropriation Bill. The Centre used the opportunity to impose President’s rule in the state, an action that drew widespread criticism from opposition parties.

(With agency inputs)

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