NEW DELHI: Even as a political war of words broke out between the Congress and the BJP over money allegedly exchanging hands to ensure the withdrawal of a candidate in an Assembly byelection last year, the Election Commission of India (ECI)on Wednesday took cognisance of the charges and asked the State government to conduct an inquiry into the episode.
The ECI wrote to the Chhattisgarh government asking that an urgent inquiry be initiated into reports that money might have been offered to a Congress candidate to withdraw from the fray in the byelection to the Antagarh assembly constituency in 2014. In the letter addressed to the Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary, the ECI said it had been stated in a media report that “money may have been offered to INC candidate to withdraw from the election fray in the byelection”.
The Commission has directed that a suitable inquiry be initiated urgently and the Commission be sent a factual report in the matter by the seventh of next month. The Congress has, meanwhile, demanded the resignation of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh over the alleged fixing of the bypoll in the state, while the BJP has dismissed the charges, terming them false. Defending its CM, the BJP said the Congress was “bankrupt” of ideas and using media reports and allegations of other parties as a “springboard” to attack it.
Congress has sought Singh’s resignation after an audio tape containing telephonic conversation purportedly between his son-in-law Puneet Gupta, Congress leader Ajit Jogi and his son Amit surfaced. It is alleged that Gupta, Ajit and Amit Jogi tried to strike a deal to induce Manturam Pawar, the Congress candidate, to withdraw from the race for the Antagarh assembly seat. However, BJP spokesperson in Raipur Sanjay Shrivastav said, “During the Antagarh byelection, withdrawal by the Congress candidate was a result of an internal fight between the Congress leaders. The BJP had nothing to do with it. We fight elections on the basis of organisational strength.”
The Congress has reportedly issued a show-cause notice to Amit Jogi after the allegations of horse-trading surfaced. Amit Jogi, responding to the charges, alleged that the audio tapes were doctored.
“The audio recording is doctored and fabricated. Why has it surfaced after one-and-a-half years? The State government wants to divert attention from scams and that is why these issues surface. FIR should be registered in cyber crime division under the IT Act. I will file a case against whoever is making the allegations,” he said.
Addressing reporters in New Delhi, AICC communications chief Randeep Surjewala said, “Keeping in view his tall promises of not allowing corruption at any cost, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately sack, dismiss or force Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh to resign. The matter should be probed by a sitting SC judge.”