RAIPUR: A crucial witness in the Antagarh assembly bypoll “fixing” scandal Firoz Siddiqui, who expressed fear for his life, has been provided security cover by the Chhattisgarh government.
Siddiqui, who carried out sting operation — an audio tape, and apprehensive over his security was hesitant to cooperate with the probe carried out by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The sting tape purportedly carried the conversations of former chief minister Ajit Jogi, Raman Singh’s son-in-law Puneet Gupta, Amit Jogi, then Congress candidate Manturam Pawar and Siddiqui himself. With the security approved, Siddiqui asserted that for exposing the truth behind the political scam it’s essential “he should remain alive”.
“In the entire episode, there are involvement of two former chief ministers, liquor mafia, industrialists and influential people. What happened in Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh where several witnesses and accused linked to it were killed. So with Antagarh turning out to be high profile there remains I too feared on likely to targeted or eliminated when I visit the court or the SIT for my statements”, Siddiqui told Express.
The alleged conversations in the tape triggered a huge controversy with the Congress expelling Amit Jogi for six years in January 2016. Later Ajit Jogi floated his own regional outfit in June 2016. In the “engineered” political event at Antagarh, the Congress cited itself as a victim of political conspiracy and alleged the ruling BJP had then missed the official machinery besides financially luring the Congress candidate to withdraw from an assembly by-poll held in September 2014. A personal security officer (PSO-gunman) will be accompanying Siddique.
“I am always supporting the SIT in the probe to ensure those guilty should be brought to books. I did the sting to end the political crime in the state. But there was a threat to my life as well. I have twice requested for security”, Siddiqui said and further added that now I can be of assistance to the investigating agency. The court had earlier rejected the anticipatory bail plea of former BJP minister Rajesh Munat, Puneet Gupta and Pawar in the given case.
“The investigation remains in the preliminary stage where the collection of evidence is in process”, the court pointed out. ‘Prima facie there are materials and evidence’, and the court found allegations to be of serious nature.
Chhattisgarh police early this month registered an FIR against Ajit Jogi, his son Amit, Rajesh Munat and Gupta in connection with the Antagarh by-poll. There were allegations that the BJP had “fixed” the polls in collusions with Jogis. The Congress candidate Manturam Pawar had abruptly withdrawn his name from the by-election and the BJP won the polls.
The FIR was registered in Raipur under Section 171 (e) for bribery, 171 undue influence, 406 criminal breach of trust and 420 cheating and 120 criminal conspiracy.