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Tehelka 'scapegoat' back in brigade

New Delhi, Oct. 5: The change of guard last May at Delhi's corridors of power has paved the way for the return of Thomas Mathew, former director in the ministry of home affairs.

Mathew was suspended by the red-faced National Democratic Alliance government 42 months ago as it went after the Tehelka team which exposed alleged corruption in defence deals in March 2001.

The director was not associated with Operation Westend ' the portal's expose on defence deals ' but an inquiry by the Intelligence Bureau a few months earlier in 2000 had reportedly suggested that the bureaucrat, who has Left leanings, could also have been involved in leaking a classified document that formed the basis of a story at the portal.

Not many officials believe it was a coincidence that the case against Mathew was registered within days of Tehelka going public with videotapes showing senior members of the then ruling coalition accepting money.

The United Progressive Alliance government, which came to power in May, last month quietly revoked the director-rank officer's suspension.

The order, issued by the joint secretary in the department of personnel and training, said a review committee that probed Mathew's 2001 suspension order did not see any need to continue with the suspension. Mathew reported for duty yesterday after more than three years in the wilderness but is still awaiting a posting.

It is not clear if the government will accommodate him in the Union home ministry or post him elsewhere. It depends on how much the UPA regime wants to go to cock a snook at the NDA, an official said. He pointed out that a case under the Official Secrets Act is pending against Mathew, section officer Neeraj Kumar and Tehelka reporters, besides the disciplinary proceedings that the NDA regime initiated against the bureaucrat.

When Mathew was suspended three years ago, more than a dozen MPs, including former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh and Chandra Shekhar, had written to Atal Bihari Vajpayee asking him to withdraw the politically-motivated order.

Mathew had served as an officer on special duty with Ram Vilas Paswan when he was railway minister in the United Front government.

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