New Delhi, Sept. 3: The Congress today took the exceptional step of giving credence to a sting operation by a freelance journalist that brought to light a purported plot to derail the trial in a fake-encounter case that has embroiled Narendra Modi’s lieutenant Amit Shah.
The Congress has been wary of confronting Modi head on, particularly on issues the Gujarat chief minister has often used to polarise politics.
But signalling a shift in strategy, that coincided with a churn in the Sangh parivar over the possible projection of Modi as the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister, the Congress asserted that the contents of the footage were “serious” enough to be probed by the CBI.
It also demanded Modi’s resignation as chief minister.
“Modi has been interfering in judicial processes and justice is not possible till he is at the helm,” Congress communications chief Ajay Maken told a specially convened media conference. “The questions this CD raises are very serious and Modi must step down for a fair probe.”
Party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit repeated the demand at another media conference in the evening.
The sting was conducted by journalist Pushp Kumar Sharma who had been accused of extortion earlier in an unrelated case.
The CD purportedly shows BJP MPs Prakash Javadekar and Bhupender Yadav gloating over the success in getting Narmada Prajapati, mother of Sohrabuddin Sheikh associate Tulsiram Prajapati, to sign at least six blank vakalatnamas, documents that declare who one’s lawyer is.
Tulsiram, the sole witness to the 2005 staged-encounter deaths of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi in Gujarat, was eliminated in another alleged fake encounter in December 2006.
Shah, a former Gujarat home minister and now BJP general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, was arrested but is now out on bail.
Javadekar, the BJP’s chief spokesperson, claimed the Congress was using the CD to “target” him and dismissed the contents as “ridiculous and distorted”.
“Somebody is giving some information and we are asking him a few things. Where is the vakalatnama being spoken about and where was it submitted.... There is nothing,” PTI quoted him as telling reporters.
The Congress showed the CD at the media conference where Maken spoke and distributed copies, arguing that the “contents were too serious to be ignored”.
Maken said the sting caught senior BJP leaders “red-handed” in their conspiracy to subvert the judicial process. “From the fake encounter to denial of justice to riot victims, we have seen they are trying to create hurdles in trials. Now we see they can evenů boast unka haath kaat diya (cut the hands of prosecutors). This deserves a thorough probe.”
Asked how authentic the footage was and the timing of the sting operation and the CD’s release, Maken said: “The veracity should be checked. But we don’t want to discuss the motive or timing of the sting.”
The journalist had carried out the sting operation in August-September last year.
Sources said the Congress’s decision to take up the issue signalled a no-holds-barred war in the lead-up to next year’s vote and that the party was set to question Modi’s credentials to be anointed as a future Prime Minister.
Congress Lok Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh P.L. Punia had called the media conference at the party headquarters, but Maken chose to accompany him to put a stamp of official approval on the move.