| Vajpayee in New Delhi. (AFP file picture)
Bikaner/Raipur, Nov. 18: Refusing to cower in the glare of the cash-on-disc scandal, the BJP Big Two went on the front foot today with the Prime Minister going after Congress’ Ajit Jogi and his deputy lending his lung power to Dilip Singh Judeo.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee sought to deflect the heat on Judeo — the BJP minister quit after being caught on camera allegedly accepting a bribe — by saying the Chhattisgarh chief minister should similarly step down as he was embroiled in a forgery case. Else, there was just no way Sonia Gandhi could push for Judeo’s prosecution.
Coming down strongly on the Congress’ “double standards” at an election rally in Bikaner, Vajpayee said there could not be two sets of rules for the same type of offence. If Judeo had gone, then Jogi — alleged to have forged documents to counter the Intelligence Bureau’s charges against him — would have to go, too, he said.
“Jo niyam Judeo par laagu ho, woh Chhattisgarh ke mukhya mantri par laagu kyon nahin ho (Why should the rules which apply to Judeo not hold good for Jogi)'” Vajpayee asked.
At a rally in Raipur around the same time, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani propped up the fallen minister, declaring he would be the BJP’s “star campaigner”. Giving the scandal a new twist, he said the CBI should not only probe the charges against Judeo, it should also check out if the whole thing was a “sting operation”.
“I hope the CBI will not only probe whether Judeo is guilty or not but would also investigate how this operation happened… whether this was a sting operation or a simple fact,” he said.
In Bikaner, Vajpayee continued his tirade against Jogi. “There is a chargesheet against Jogi. He should not only resign but the case against him should go on. Why should the policy be different in Jogi’s case' This is a question I ask Sonia Gandhi.”
He said Jogi should take a lesson from Judeo. “In the wake of allegations, Judeo has resigned saying he would not resume office till proved innocent,” he said. But there were no signs the chief minister would do any such thing.
Advani, too, culled out more positives from the disc dirt. He said far from Judeo’s resignation proving a minus for the BJP, it was sure to win voter sympathy. “The way he has reacted, he will gain people’s sympathy and support.”
Explaining why the BJP wanted Judeo as its star campaigner, Advani said the party’s response to such allegations had always been straightforward. He, himself, had campaigned when he was in the eye of the hawala storm. “We do not want to hide anything in public life. Be it hawala scandal or anything else.”
Pitch for TV debate
At a rally in Raipur, Advani tonight suggested a debate on television between Vajpayee and Sonia instead of the BJP and the Congress holding separate public meetings in the run-up to elections.