Jaya targets Sonia for her intervention in Tehelka case

Did Congress President Sonia Gandhi tried to shield Tehelka from investigation in the financial dealings on corruption in defence purchases in 2001. The Congress has dismissed the allegations saying Sonia Gandhi’s move was an intervention for freedom of speech and expression. “It is a classic case of shooting the messenger and misuse of investigation agency by the government,” said Manish Tiwari, the spokesman of the party.

With the assembly elections in major states round the corner, whose results will have impac on BJP fate in 2019 general elections, rhetoric by Jaya Jaitley are nothing but an attempt to attract the attention of Prime Minister as she has been in oblivion ever since her mentor George Fernandes become bed-ridden following illness.

In her book titled “Life among the Scorpions: Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics”, Jaitley accuser the Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi of shielding Tehelka from an investigation into its dealings and finances after 2001 sting on corruption in defence deals.

In her book Jaitley said Gandhi wrote to finance minister P Chidambaram asking him to ensure that financiers of Tehelka were not treated in an “unfair and unjust” manner. The former defence minister Fernandes was forced to quit office after Tehelka sting “Operation West End” went public.  The resignation of George also brought as an end to his phenomenal rise in political career of Jaya Jaitley. After Fernandes fell ill and unable to work, Jaya Jaitley went into oblivion as she had no role to play. The decade long rule of UPA at the centre also spoiled her chances.

Following the rise of Modi as Prime Minister, Jaya saw a ray of hope for her revival and thought it was the right time to target Sonia Gandhi.

In her autobiography, Jaitley has claimed that the Congress, which was in opposition then was ultimate beneficiary of Tehelka sting and accused the party of having received hawala funds. Despite her claims against the Congress party and its President Sonia Gandhi for their involvement in the kick-back, she has not been able to substantiate her charges. In other words the book-cum-autobiography is nothing but fiction that Jaitley had weaved to woo present ruling dispensation.

Ms Jaitley herself admitted about  meeting middleman Christian Michel and how he bragged about helping the then Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao to spy on Gandhi and then went on to offer her an opportunity to make a huge pile of money as political donation to her party. The former aide of Fernandes has not clarified as to why and in what capacity she met the arms middleman and why he wanted to help Rao as he had entire government machinery including the intelligence setup at his disposal.

The revelations by Ms. Jaitley in her book about how defence deals are sealed in India, she wrote about a meeting with a senior Congress leader whose name has been withheld for the reasons best known to her, told her during their conversation that people are ready to pay huge amount of money in lieu of having a meeting Sonia over a cup of tea. What does it mean and what she wants to prove. Who will pay lakhs of rupees to have a cup of tea with Mrs. Gandhi when her party was in opposition. and party, which has always been after her blood was ruling the country at that point time?

When Tehelka sting rocked National Democratic Alliance government led by the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had directed Ms. Jaitley to put in her papers also as the head of the Samata Party of George Fernandes. Vajpayee demanded her resignation after accepting Fernandes regisnation. The resignation of defence minister was accepted to pave the way for a free and fair trial despite reluctance of L K Advani and Jaswant Singh, who wanted Fernandes to continue in the government arguing that he had no role in the sting operation.

However, Fernandes opted to quit the government not to set an example but to dany opportunity to the opposition that put the government on the mat charging its ministers and ruling party leaders of wing involved in corruption. The then chief of the BJP Bangaru Laxman was also shunted out of the party as he was shown taking a bribe of Rs one lakh for  helping a person to get clear a deal.

The former Samata Party chief has attached a letter written by the Congress President in her biography in order to buttress her point that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in general and Sonia Gandhi in particular were involved in facilitating the framing of corruption charges against her, a move that the court had refuted. In her book Jaitley made attempt to prove that the Congress leadership and its President had links with Tehelka and the sting was carried out in connivance with them.

“I included the letter in my book to show the truth behind the accusations against me. The wrong people not were fake. Neither did I give them any assurances, nor asked and received any money. I have been going to court for nine years on basis of wrong allegations,” Jaitly wrote in her book.

In the corruption case the Central Bureau of Investigation, the premier probe agency of Indian government, had filed against her, which is still on, the agency charged her of having accepted a kick-back of Rs two lakhs in the case in 2001. The agency in its report had said that the money she took in exchange for persuading Fernandes to award contract of hand-held thermal imagers to foreign firm West End International.

The CBI had registered a case on the basis of a sting, ‘Operation Westend,’ conducted by news portal Tehelka in 2000 exposing alleged corruption in defence deals. In total, three letters are enclosed in the book. They are – a letter by Tehelka directors and a letter by Tehelka Financiers – First Global Directors addressed to Gandhi and the third letter from Gandhi to Chidambaram on behalf of Tehelka and its financiers. Jiaitley hinted that Sonia tried to convince Chidambaram to shield the Tehelka financiers.

The Tehelka sting case helped the opposition in the Parliament where they grilled the Vajpayee government and it also became one of the major reasons for the fall of NDA government. The then government constituted a commission of inquiry to look into the matter. However, the opposition during its campaign trail accused the government of setting up a commission of inquiry that got nowhere and a media house that carried out its legitimate professional duty was hounded.

(Kushal Jeena)