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Since 1st March, 1999
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Witch-hunt tag on Tehelka probe
- Jaya ready to face CBI
Former BJP chief Bangaru Laxman caught on video in the Tehelka sting operation. The hidden camera showed him allegedly accepting a bribe for a fake weapons deal. (Reuters file picture)

New Delhi, Oct. 4: Former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly today termed the Centre's move to hand the Tehelka probe to the CBI a 'political game' and a 'witch-hunt' which she was not scared of facing.

The decision evoked predictable reactions from political parties. The BJP and the Janata Dal (United) assailed it while the Congress and the CPM welcomed it.

With George Fernandes, the prime target of the move, away in Maharashtra, his colleague Jaya spoke up. She accused the government of trying to 'nail innocent people' to divert the heat it was facing on the 'tainted' ministers' issue.

The BJP spoke on similar lines, saying the decision to disband the Phukan commission that was probing the scandal amounted to 'gross miscarriage of justice'.

This was the second attempt to divert attention from the 'tainted' ministers' controversy, it claimed.

The Congress said the BJP should not raise objections as it 'does not know the a-b-c of morality'. It also referred to the BJP as the 'Bangaru Judeo Party', in a reference to the cash-on-camera scandals involving Bangaru Laxman and Dilip Singh Judeo.

BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said the decision was politically motivated and condemned it.

Raking up the issue of the 'large number of tainted ministers', he alleged that the Prime Minister and his government had been trying to evade the issue.

Union railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, who is an accused in the fodder scam, takes a nap during the presentation of the Shram Awards in Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

Jaya, stung by the accusation that she had used Fernandes' official residence as a 'private person', said there was no law barring a minister's house from being used for his trade union and socialist activities.

'There is no officially-designated house of a defence minister. This was Fernandes' house as an MP and many of his trade union, socialist activities and those pertaining to Burmese and Tibetan movements were carried out from here,' she told reporters, adding that she had been Fernandes' 'socialist colleague for 20 years'.

'Let the law minister also explain how Sonia Gandhi, as a foreigner, had lived in then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's house and run an insurance business from there.'

Training guns on the government, she continued: 'They tried to sidetrack the issue by reviving an old case against Uma Bharti but that proved costly for the government and they did not succeed.'

Insisting that it was unprecedented that the term of the commission had not been extended, she said 'the decision taken due to political reasons amounts to gross miscarriage of justice'.

Pointing out that the commission had already submitted one report, she questioned if there were some findings the government wanted to 'reverse through the CBI.'

She said this reflected the insecurity of the government as it was on the verge of being proved that Tehelka had used unethical means to frame people.

'If it's proved that we didn't take any money, they would have been exposed.'

Asked if she would cooperate with the CBI, she said, she wanted to have nothing to do with an agency 'which is part of witch hunting.'

Laxman questioned the manner in which the Phukan commission was disbanded.

'On the 1st (of October), the government counsel sought time till October 8 to file his reply and on the 4th an order is issued that the commission wouldn't get an extension.' On the CBI probe, he said 'he was prepared for anything'.

Dal (U) spokesman Shiv Kumar demanded that the commission's interim report be made public.

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