The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cash-for-parade twist to rape row

Bhopal, Oct. 24: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh today sought to turn the tables on Uma Bharti, claiming that the rape victim paraded before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given Rs 1 lakh in the form of a fixed deposit made by a former BJP legislator.

Digvijay said the fixed deposit (no. 10162) account was opened on October 11 at the Rajgarh District Cooperative Bank in which Jamnibai, who was paraded at Vajpayee’s Sunday rally here, was made joint account holder with former BJP MLA Raghunandan Sharma. The provision was that Jamnibai would get a monthly interest from the deposit and in the event of her death, the interest money would be passed on to her son.

“This is a fit case of allurement at a time when the Election Commission’s code of conduct is in force. Look at the sequence of events. She gets the FD dole just eight days before she is paraded before the Prime Minister,” the chief minister said, adding that the Congress was exploring the possibility of lodging a formal complaint with the poll panel.

Digvijay’s revelation sent shockwaves in the Bharti camp. The BJP’s chief ministerial aspirant steered clear of the controversy, saying all queries should be directed to either Jamnibai or Sharma.

BJP state spokesman Kailash Vijayvargi said the two issues should not be mixed up. He said the local BJP unit collected donation for Jamnibai as the state had stopped her pension and the fixed deposit was a “genuine, humanitarian” gesture.

If the BJP had “wrong intentions”, Vijayvargi added, it would not have looked for legal means of providing her long-term financial assistance.

He accused Digvijay of stooping low and politicising the plight of a helpless woman whose husband was killed and who was subsequently subjected to humiliation of the worst order.

The chief minister was, however, unruffled as he pointed out loopholes in the BJP’s line of defence. He said the party must explain how it thought of opening a fixed deposit in her name just days before the Prime Minister’s public meeting.

Second, Bharti had claimed to have met Jamnibai hours before Vajpayee’s rally and in the “spur of the moment” decided to present her before the Prime Minister. “How did she (Jamnibai) get security clearance from SPG (special protection group)'” he asked.

Away from the political turmoil, Jamnibai’s house in Chuwadalia village of Rajgarh district bore testimony to her sense of gratefulness to the BJP. A saffron-green party flag fluttered high atop her house.

The Jamnibai incident occurred way back in 1994 but it has been resurrected with the Assembly polls just round the corner.

Minutes after Bharti showcased Jamnibai’s plight at Vajpayee’s meeting to drive home the point that women were not safe in Digvijay’s regime, the Congress struck back accusing her of violating the Supreme Court and the United Nation’s human rights guidelines that debarred rape victims from being identified.

The firebrand BJP leader stuck to her guns describing Jamnibai as “Ayodhya” and symbol of “mahila shakti (woman power)”.

Vijayvargi also accused Digvijay of using the Jamnibai controversy as a “diversionary ploy” to turn attention away from “core” issues like development, power crisis and poor roads.

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