Tehelka shows politician as pimp
Rush to well, pay Rs 2500
Dubai gang, but not Dawood
BJP gifts friend super-envoy’s job
BJP gives clean chit, mum on comeback
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Aug. 23 : 
In the unfolding video wars, tehelka.com this evening released fresh footage that its reporters posing as arms dealers secretly videotaped.

Tehelka has claimed that the new footage shows R.K. Jain, the then national treasurer of the Samata Party, offering to arrange sexual favours for the representatives of West End, the fictitious arms company.

The Samata Party has been shrillest in the campaign to discredit the Tehelka tapes. Its leader George Fernandes was forced to quit in the wake of the exposé in March.

“While the Samata Party has been making loud moral noises about Tehelka’s methodology in uncovering massive corruption in governance, fresh evidence dug out from Tehelka’s West End tapes exposes the brutal truth about its functionaries,” the portal said.

“The Tehelka tapes have revealed that the Samata Party’s own national treasurer, R.K. Jain, had offered unequivocally — on sting videotape — to pimp and procure women for Tehelka’s undercover reporters in an attempt to close a deal and make some money,” the website has alleged.

“The excerpts prove that a key functionary of the Samata Party was steeped in reckless sexual pimping. While the Tehelka team’s motives were completely overboard and clean — the exposure of corruption in governance — the Samata Party’s functionaries were doing it simply to cut deals and make money,” Tehelka said.

A spokesman for the portal said the excerpts were not released earlier because “we did not want to diffuse the focus of the investigations”. He said the tapes were given to the army about five months ago and to the Venkataswami Commission three months ago. “Tehelka did not want to derail the main focus of its investigation from corruption in governance to sexual trivia. Since these have been leaked and aired by a third party, Tehelka is now forced to release its related material, too.”

The following are excerpts from the transcript.

Venue: R.K. Jain’s office in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

Jain: Whenever… you are interested in seeing the girls, na?

Tehelka: Yeah, we can see the girl today, no?

Jain: That man who was sitting downstairs, he has just gone out. He will come. Maybe you can see it today.

Tehelka: Who is he?

Jain: The boy who is arranging…

Tehelka: Haan, haan... Good girls?

Jain: Hmm?

Tehelka: Okay. No problem about money matters.

[Jain mumbles]

Tehelka: Want to enjoy?...

Jain: Yaar, tell me one thing, What is in life?

Tehelka: That lady coming, she is…she can speak English, hai na?

Jain: Yeah, yeah, sure... I want my client to be happy in all ways.

Tehelka: Exactly.

Jain: My political friends…by looking after them.

The next day the Tehelka reporter meets two girls, arranged by a person called Menon, in Jain’s office.


New Delhi, Aug. 23: 
MPs beware. Come winter, a dash to the well of the House could cost rogue members Rs 2,500.

Under the rule, which will come into effect from the winter session if the MPs agree, any member entering the well — the sanctum sanctorum of the House — and creating disorder will face automatic suspension for five working days, depriving them of their daily allowance of Rs 500.

Fed up with the series of adjournments, Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi convened an all-party meeting today and told the members that the situation had gone beyond tolerable limits. He gave them a detailed account of the adjournments in the last 22 days of the monsoon session because of which the House lost 28 hours and 49 minutes.

Balayogi said steps would have to be taken to check the growing indiscipline among parliamentarians. All parties agreed on the measures except the Samajwadi Party which wanted the right to rush to the well.

While the Speaker is planning another meeting to discuss other suggestions, the parties today decided to immediately incorporate the punitive penalty of a five-day suspension in the Rules of Procedure of the House.

Balayogi showed his determination to discipline errant MPs when he summarily ejected Samata member Prabhunath Singh from the House for disobeying his orders during question hour.

The House Committee, under the Speaker’s chairmanship, is likely to table a report on the proposal on Monday. Members will be given seven days to react to it.

After the MPs, the next in the firing line are the umpteen private television channels. Moves are afoot to bar TV cameras inside the Parliament complex to stop the MPs from rushing to them after forcing an adjournment of the House.

Another proposal is to convene a meeting of editors to evolve a code for ensuring fair reporting of Parliament proceedings. Some parties feel that members who stall debates or misbehave get more coverage in both the print and the electronic media.


Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
It is not Dawood Ibrahim, but a lesser-known gang operating out of Dubai that had masterminded the kidnapping of Khadim’s owner Parthapratim Roy Burman.

Briefing the media for the first time since the return of the shoe magnate after paying a Rs 3-crore ransom, Partha Bhattacharya, IG, CID, said there were “other bhais” in Dubai and one of them was behind the abduction.

Earlier, Hyderabad police commissioner P. Ramulu had said that Shafique, a henchman of Dawood, was the kidnap mastermind. However, Bhattacharya refused to identify the kidnappers. Claiming that the abduction was almost busted, save the arrest of the four “outstation” criminals who had actually kidnapped Roy Burman from Tiljala on July 25, Bhattacharjee said they would now have to do some “sensitive investigation” to catch the Dubai mastermind.

But, Bhattacharya said, one thing was certain: Calcutta was very much in the scheme of things of the Dubai gangsters. “I suspect the presence of several Dubai-based gangsters in the city,” he said.

Investigations had earlier revealed that Roy Burman’s kidnappers had planned several abductions, not just in the city but also in the other metropolises. “It is a gang that is coming up and wants to establish its footprints across the country,” an official had said.

This official had also revealed that during ransom negotiations with the Roy Burman family, a gang member had insisted that after the release of Parthapratim, the family should announce the name of the gang at a news conference. “The idea was to ensure that the gang’s name spelled terror in the area and helped them to easily extort money,” he had added.

Confirming media reports, Bhattacharjee said Tiljala don Mohammed Tasleem, alias Chunnu, not only gave the abductors protection but also ensured their safe passage out of the city. “Raids are on to flush them out from wherever they are hiding,” he said.

He also said Swati Pal, arrested from Mumbai, travelled not only to Dubai but several other places in the Gulf as well. “Swati performed in so-called nightclubs not only in Mumbai and Dubai, but also in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain where she had developed relationships with gangsters,” Bhattacharjee said. She travelled to these destinations on a “dubiously obtained” passport through a notorious gangster, Jagdish, who was killed in a gang war in Bangalore three weeks ago.

Given the global ramifications of the case, Bhattacharya said the “assistance of several national and international agencies, including the Interpol”, had been sought.

Police today detained two associates of Sona, a “facilitator” in the abduction, from Tiljala.

“We hope to get vital information about Sona from them,” an officer said. This detention comes a few days after some suspects narrowly escaped the clutches of the police.


New Delhi, Aug. 23: 
The Vajpayee government has created a special ambassadorial post in the Indian embassy in Washington to accommodate Bhishma Kumar Agnihotri — a rank outsider but a prominent member of the Overseas Friends of the BJP.

He has been appointed adviser in the embassy with the rank of ambassador. He will also be “ambassador-at-large” for non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin.

Earlier regimes also brought in people close to them and appointed them ambassadors to key missions. Till recently, both London and Moscow — two key centres — always had political appointees as ambassadors. Washington continues to have ambassadors appointed at the political level and a serving IFS official has, so far, not made it to the top post in the embassy there.

Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral had appointed a number of close friends and political associates as ambassadors to important countries. But most of them resigned or were recalled when the BJP came to power.

However, the BJP government’s move to create a new ambassadorial post in an important mission like Washington to accommodate a friend of the ruling party is unprecedented.

On the face of it, Agnihotri — originally from Punjab and now settled in the US — has an impressive background as a legal expert and is known for his work on civil liberties and human rights. He is scheduled to arrive here next Tuesday and will be in India till September 7 for consultations with officials in South Block and the Indian leadership.

Despite his record, Agnihotri is better known here as an active member of the Overseas Friends of the BJP — an outfit that has been with the party through “thick and thin” and played a key role in mobilising funds and opinion in its favour when the BJP was in the Opposition.

Since coming to power, the BJP, in gratitude, has undertaken several programmes both in the UK and the US to acknowledge the contribution of its friends there.

Asked to comment on Agnihotri’s appointment, BJP spokesman Narendra Modi expressed happiness and said that though he did not have the details of the work the new ambassador was supposed to do, Agnihotri was the right choice for the job.

The foreign ministry’s three-line statement announcing Agnihotri’s appointment, too, did not give any details about the nature of work the new appointee is supposed to do. India has a full-fledged embassy in Washington and a well-equipped staff to help ambassador Lalit Mansingh.

The move could be seen in the light of the BJP government’s belief that much of its success story in the West, particularly the US, was scripted by non-resident Indians. Despite the pedestal the BJP puts NRIs on, the government has not found very much investment support from them.

Unlike the overseas Chinese, who are the largest investors in China, NRIs have been tentative in putting their money in India.


New Delhi, Aug. 23: 
The government today gave a clean chit to George Fernandes in the Tehelka scandal but neither the BJP nor the Central coalition is willing to take up the former defence minister’s fight and plead for his reinduction.

A senior BJP MP was non-committal when asked whether the revelation that the portal had used “questionable” means to get to the bottom of armsgate had taken the wind out of the sting operation. “In our eyes he is innocent but the final decision rests with the Venkataswami Commission (investigating the Tehelka disclosures). Nobody is above the law, whether he is a politician or a journalist,” he said.

The BJP leader made it clear that until the commission gave a clean chit to Fernandes, the question of his reinduction did not arise. “It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative who he should take and who he should not. But without the commission’s report, he will not do anything in Fernandes’ case.”

The remark came on a day parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan told the Lok Sabha that Fernandes was “innocent”. Mahajan also announced that an inquiry would be held into the revelation that Tehelka had used prostitutes to trap army officers and swing the fictitious deals.

BJP sources admitted that the scope of the inquiry was “limited” and done more to placate Samata Party members and Fernandes himself, given his “potential” to create “trouble”. They betrayed a hint of fear and uncertainty about what Fernandes would do if he was kept out of power indefinitely.

Mahajan consulted home minister L.K. Advani before making the announcement. Advani agreed. “The mandate is simply to inquire into the veracity of what was published in The Indian Express (on Wednesday). Nothing more,” the sources added.

Fernandes has already raised the hackles of a section in the BJP which is upset with his countrywide tours to confer with leaders of various NDA constituents on unspecified missions. For instance, against the express wishes of the West Bengal BJP and party chief Jana Krishnamurthi, Fernandes had openly wooed Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee and even addressed a public meeting with her in Contai.

Some allies such as the Telugu Desam, too, appeared to be lukewarm to Fernandes’ attempts to cash in on the latest chapter of the Tehelka exposé. “The Venkataswami Commission must have the last word on the matter. What is important is what the tapes have revealed on an important matter like corruption in arms deals and not what means were used,” said a Desam functionary.




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