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‘Double agent’ Khute comes out of hiding to cry: Save me

Raipur, Dec. 8: Ajit Jogi’s men call him a double agent, the BJP brands him a betrayer.

In hiding since Saturday when an audio tape was played before the media in which Jogi, the defeated Congress chief minister of Chhattisgarh, was purportedly offering money to break the BJP, Punit Ram Khute reappeared this afternoon at Raipur’s Hotel Celebration ringed by security guards.

“I have been on the run for the past three days. They have been hounding me night and day. I fear for myself, my children and family. Mujhe bachaa lijiye (Save me…),” the 52-year-old MP wept.

Who does he fear' Khute’s dark face darkened and his voice trembled. “You know who they are. Ajit Jogi’s henchmen.”

On Saturday midnight, hours after the Jogi scandal erupted, a motorbike screeched to a halt in front of the BJP office at Rajbandha Maidan in the heart of the city. The rider, his face covered in a black shawl, ran into the office and broke down, saying his life was in danger, but found no shelter.

He was running from “Jogi’s goons” because a section in the Congress suspected him to be in cahoots with the BJP in setting the trap for Jogi. Khute had left the BJP and joined the Congress some time before the Assembly polls.

Turned out in a dhoti and bandhgala, Khute admitted that he had introduced Virendra Pandey, a BJP leader, to Jogi to act as the go-between with Baliram Kashyap who was to lead the breakaway group from the BJP. Jogi was caught on tape offering to fund the operation and wrote a letter to the governor committing support to a Kashyap-led government.

“Jogi said he was prepared to go to any lengths to prevent the BJP (from coming to power),” said Khute, who appears to have egged on the former chief minister, shocked by the poll defeat.

He is an accused — along with Jogi — in the FIR. But the Raman Singh-led BJP government today offered him security and party sources said he could turn an approver. Though no one from the BJP was present at the hotel where Khute met the media, party leaders had been trying since morning to persuade the fugitive to come out of hiding.

“If he becomes an official witness, the government might provide him security,” said a senior official of the anti-corruption wing, which has filed the FIR.

Khute disclosed that he had not been formally inducted into the Congress. Nor has the BJP taken any action against him for the defection.

“I am yet to become an official member of the Congress. At heart, I am still a BJP man,” he said. “Jogi bhrashtachar ka rogi (Jogi is afflicted with corruption). He made me a scapegoat to further his own political interest,” Khute said.

Before becoming a politician, Khute was in the police and had been accused of accepting a bribe when he was a constable in Raipur and Jogi was the district collector. Khute was let off then for lack of proof.

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