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Bribe bombshell blows up in Jogi face

Raipur, Dec. 6: Ousted chief minister Ajit Jogi lurched into another crisis when allegations that he tried to bribe BJP legislators exploded in his face today, barely 12 hours before a new regime takes over in Chhattisgarh.

The dramatic sequence of events unfolded as Jaitley alleged at a news conference here that Jogi had offered a bribe of Rs 45 lakh to BJP MP Baliram Kashyap to split the party and become chief minister with Congress support. A tape, purportedly containing Jogi’s voice, was played at the conference.

Jaitley also showed a letter which, he said, Jogi had written to the governor extending support to Kashyap if he managed to effect a split. He said Kashyap should be given a chance to prove his majority.

At a news conference late at night, Jogi admitted writing to the governor but denied offering money. Jogi also said he had written the letter after former BJP legislator Virendra Pandey met him at his residence today and sought his support for a government led by a tribal. He said the tape was “concocted” and “forged” and asserted that the recorded voice was not his.

According to Kashyap, he was yesterday asked by Jogi to meet him. Today, Jogi, his son Amit and some Congress workers picked him up at 10 am from Raipur town, he said. They came in a Tata Safari driven by Amit. Before Kashyap got into the car, he was handed Rs 25 lakh, while the rest of the money was given later, the BJP leader said at the conference.

Jaitley, who reached Raipur around 9 this evening, met the governor and then held the news conference. He said the tape and the letter will be handed over to the CBI.

In the taped conversation, Kashyap is heard asking for a written assurance from Sonia that she would not withdraw support. The voice, which the BJP claims to be that of Jogi, says he has Sonia’s nod.

Congress spokesman Rajendra Tiwari said it was “a calculated move to defame Jogi because he exposed BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo with the cash-on-camera scandal for which the BJP blames Jogi. “The conversation is not acceptable in court,” he said.

As rumours swirled about the bribery allegations, groups of people huddled in street corners. “Doosra ghus kand a giya hai,” said one man, referring to the earlier scandal involving Judeo.

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