CBI summons Rawat after sting found genuine, he says it's a BJP plot
- Umesh Kumar of Samachar Plus channel conducted a sting operation against Harish Rawat
- Rawat is seen offering money (Rs 5 crore), to be handed to a senior leader among the nine rebel MLAs
- Chandigarh\'s Central Forensic Science Laboratory has found the sting to be genuine and undoctored
- Rawat has accepted that the sting features him, but has brushed it off as a non-serious conversation with the journalist
- Rawat questions the CBI\'s motives in summoning him
- What the Uttarakhand Congress has to say on the matter
Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, already locked in a court battle against the imposition of President's Rule in the state, seems to be in hot water.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned him to explain his presence in a sting operation where he is seen negotiating an offer to bribe legislators for their support. Rawat has been called to the CBI headquarters on Monday.
Rawat, who had earlier accepted that he was present in the sting operation, says he will cooperate with the agency, but adds that it is acting at the behest of the ruling BJP.
"If the CBI is being used to tamper with the floor test, people will notice what you are doing. The public is the ultimate master," Rawat reportedly said. "We will cooperate with this completely. The BJP has started a lot of things, like this CBI summons."
The sting operation was conducted by one Umesh Kumar, who runs a channel called Samachar Plus, whose small viewership is confined to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Kumar used to be a property developer before he turned journalist.
Sources in the CBI say that forensic tests done on the contents of the sting operation have found it to be genuine and undoctored. The agency had reportedly sent the CD of the sting operation to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Chandigarh, which found that it had not been tampered with.
And that's not all. An MLA, who was examined by the CBI, had claimed that after the tabling of the Finance Bill, Rawat had called him to his office and offered him Rs 2.5 crore and an important portfolio in return for his support. The same MLA also claimed that another senior minister in the Rawat government beefed up the offer to around Rs 10 crore.
Uttarakhand's rebel MLAs used the sting operation to claim that Rawat was trying to bribe them. This was one of the reasons cited by the Centre to sack the Congress government.
If the CBI decides to arrest Rawat after examining him, he will become the second politician after former BJP president Bangaru Laxman to go to jail on the basis of a sting operation. Laxman, who died in 2014, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years' imprisonment after he was found accepting bribe from a Tehelka journalist on camera.
Sources in the CBI said that after the preliminary inquiry was set up on the orders of the Central government on 25 April, the agency had examined Kumar and an Uttarakhand MLA. It is on the basis of their testimonies that the agency decided to call in Rawat.
Interestingly, after Rawat got to know that Kumar has been examined by the agency, he accepted that he was present in the video. However, he claimed that he should be hanged from a clock tower if there is any evidence of him offering bribe in cash or kind to garner the support of lawmakers.
The video of the sting is interesting. While Rawat is reportedly seen suggesting that he can offer 'five' (Rs 5 crore), the journalist says he can manage the other '15' (Rs 15 crore) from two sources in Delhi. The amount was to be allegedly paid to a senior leader among the nine Congress rebels.
Rawat claims he was just playing along with the journalist. "The journalist was saying something to pass his time, and I also said two words to pass the time - what's wrong in it?" he told a newspaper.
"Why would a person invest Rs 15 crore for me? I was talking to rebels as they were still part of our party, and in politics, channels are never blocked," Rawat reportedly said.
Pradesh Congress backing
Rawat's possible arrest could further complicate matter for the Congress in Uttarakhand and set off another battle within party ranks.
However, Kishore Upadhyay, president of the Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress Committee says the CBI inquiry is just another ruse to not allow Rawat to prove his majority.
"It is not the CBI anymore. It has become Modi Bureau of Investigation," Upadhyay told Catch.
He also claimed that the security of a sensitive airport was compromised, since the video is said to be shot in the premises of the Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun. "This airport is just 15 minutes of flying time away from the border with China," he said.
The senior Congress leader also said that the statements of MLAs who have already crossed over to the BJP cannot be trusted. "They will tell the CBI what the BJP asks them to say. How can you trust them?" he asked.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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