M A I N   N E W S

Judeo to go if found guilty, says PM
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, November 16
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tonight said a probe was on into charges of acceptance of bribe against Union Minister Dilip Singh Judeo and asserted he “has to go if found guilty.”

He said facts were being gathered and action would be taken if Judeo, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, was found guilty.

The Prime Minister, however, said there was no need for Judeo to resign from the ministry before the probe was over and remained non-committal on a probe by the CBI.

“It is election time. I do not think he should step down as soon as charges are levelled,” he told reporters at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here after his arrival from a week-long tour of Russia, Tajikistan and Syria.

To a question whether Judeo should step down as former BJP President Bangaru Laxman had done the same after the Tehelka expose, he said such a step would be contemplated only after the inquiry was over.

Asked whether the alleged bribery scam would affect the result of forthcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Vajpayee said “we will know about it later”.

Meanwhile, the Congress today demanded immediate arrest and dismissal of Union Minister Dilip Singh Judeo and filing of a criminal case against him even as an embarrassed BJP described as “fabricated and conspiracy” a report in a leading daily here about a CD purportedly showing the chief-ministerial candidate accepting money for giving mining rights to an Australian company.

“After Bangaru Laxman and Jaya Jaitley, it is now Judeo who has been caught on camera accepting bribe. The government cannot shirk responsibility. It is incumbent upon the Prime Minister to proceed against the minister caught in the act in the video clip,” AICC general secretary Ambika Soni said at a specially convened press conference here.

Dismissing the BJP’s charge that the allegation against Mr Judeo was a Congress conspiracy, Ms Soni accused the BJP of always adopting such “diversionary tactics” whenever it suffered such an embarrassment.

Earlier, terming the bribery charges as nothing but a clear case of maligning BJP leaders, party general secretary and spokesperson M.A. Naqvi wanted the Election Commission to look into the matter, conducting a thorough probe.

“The probe should unearth who was behind the “undignified fabrication of such material”, Mr Naqvi said.

“As apprehended by us, the Congress has done this. Facing imminent defeat in the coming assembly elections in four states, it has resorted to this kind of tactics,” Mr Naqvi said amidst reports that Mr Judeo today left for Delhi to consult senior party leaders. He was on a poll tour in Chattisgarh.

Mr Naqui said: “Mr Jogi, who is already facing charges of forging documents, can go to any extent to bring down his rivals. We have cautioned our cadres to be beware of such tactics and counter these effectively.” The CD, according to a newspaper report, shows Mr Judeo collecting cash from a man claiming to work for an Australian mining company, seeking leases in Chhatisgarh and Orissa, from a hotel room in Delhi early this month. Mr Naqvi said without giving a proper source and without an authentic tape, publication and circulation of such material was against democratic norms.

Congress spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy said the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper that had done the story against Mr Judeo had stood by its authenticity. “For us the Editor is more credible than the spokesman of the BJP.”

According to a UNI report from Raipur, Mr Judeo earlier in the day ruled out his resignation from the ministry, saying the charges against him were “baseless and far from the truth”.

“Why should I resign. There is no question of it. The charge against me is the outcome of an international conspiracy involving Christian missionaries, against whom I have been fighting for more than a decade”, Mr Judeo said at a press conference.

Mr Judeo alleged that he had come to know from reliable sources that Chief Minister Ajit Jogi was also behind this “attempt to tarnish his image” at a time when elections were round the corner.


Scribe’s house ransacked

Raipur, November 16
Miscreants attacked a television channel’s office and the residence of a leading newspaper’s correspondent here this evening, following the media “expose” on Union Minister Dilip Singh Judeo.

Journalist Ashwini Sharma and his family locked themselves in a room even as their house was ransacked, while Sahara Samay channel’s employees managed to fend off the attack on their workplace.

A case has been lodged and the police is investigating the matter. — UNI

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