The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bhujbal faces tough stamp scam quiz

Mumbai, Feb. 22: The legend goes that Chhagan Bhujbal had once beaten film star Dharmendra in an acting competition. It will, however, take a lot more than theatrics for the Nationalist Congress Party’s star campaigner to fend the questions that the special investigation team will throw at him on Wednesday.

He has been summoned for questioning by the team probing the stamp paper scam.

This would be the first time in the history of the state — and perhaps of the country — that a former deputy chief minister would be interrogated for allegedly harbouring underworld links and sheltering a man who is said to have looted Rs 39,000 crore from the Indian government.

The scientific tests done on Abdul Karim Telgi — including the P3 brain fingerprinting, narcoanalysis and lie detector tests — are said to have revealed that Bhujbal was paid large amounts of money by the scam mastermind.

The former deputy chief minister and home minister is also alleged to have transferred and posted policemen in places that helped him garner financial profits.

Bhujbal has denied both allegations, calling these a conspiracy to end his political career. He had resigned from the government, citing moral responsibility for an attack by his party workers on a television channel office, days after the Opposition bayed for his blood at the recent Assembly session in Nagpur.

SIT officers are not buying the defence of the politician, who had flirted with theatre and loves glamour and designer suits. Sources said Bhujbal would not only be questioned about his alleged links with Telgi, but also about the illegal police transfers that recently shook the Democratic Front government.

Bhujbal had appointed top police officers such as former Mumbai commissioner R.S. Sharma, joint police chief Sreedhar Wagal and deputy commissioner Pradeep Sawant. All three, along with several other officers, are now in jail for their alleged role in the stamp scam.

Bhujbal could face as many as 200 questions, police sources said. “There is already the deposition by some (Telgi case) indicted police officers on his (Bhujbal’s) role in the money-for-postings scandal. Then, there is the stamp scam. It will be a difficult call for him to come up with reasonable answers to the allegations,” an officer said.

Bhujbal’s interrogation, however, has broader political ramifications. Indications are an apprehensive NCP is debating whether Bhujbal should at all be part of its coming poll campaign. Though the party denies it at the moment, its star campaigner could well be dropped from all election rallies.

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