The tale of the sting



For all the trolls who go from blog to blog on the Hindustan Times website and label all its editors as Congress stooges or paid journalists, I finally know where they are getting that from.

But while the trolls know no better, I would have expected rather more of Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy. On the night of the debate in parliament on the cash-for-vote scam, I could see how he was losing it even as an admission of wrongdoing came from the former media advisor to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee: Sudheendra Kulkarni all but admitted that the cash-for-votes scam was actually a sting mounted by the BJP against the Congress. Ultimately, they could not get any Congressmen to buy any of the BJP MPs. But, as Kulkarni said it, the sting had the sanction of top BJP leaders even though both he and the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, now justify the entire entrapment action “as nothing wrong’’.

Well, I guess there was indeed nothing wrong with it for even the Tehelka.com sting nearly a decade ago, which trapped then BJP president Bangaru Laxman into accepting a bribe, could be classified as an ‘entrapment’ and not a sting in the original sense of the term as we know it. But it is easier to trap a person into accepting a bribe. How does one trap someone into giving one? Perhaps that is where the BJP `sting’ went wrong and did not quite come off.

So Tehelka magazine’s latest expose is entirely legitimate and for Rudy to foul-mouth its editors and reporters as working for the Congress was clearly not just insulting but downright despicable.

I guess the truth hurts and I have reason to believe that the latest expose of this entrapment saga is in the right direction. For, right after the confidence vote in parliament in July 2008, Bombay Congress president Kripashankar Singh had told me and a couple of other journalists a story so fantastic that I thought he had to be making it up.

Singh had invited us to lunch and was heaving great sighs of relief at how he had escaped by the skin of his teeth (“Main baal baal bach gaya,’’ as he put it).

Of course, Singh, like many other Congressmen who had a stake in the then government’s survival, had parked himself in New Delhi during the confidence vote. One evening, he received a friendly call from a BJP functionary whom he had known for a long time. This functionary apparently told Singh that since they were all whiling away their time in Delhi with not much to do, they might as well have some fun by getting together for a dinner at an up-market hotel in the national capital.

Being the gregarious individual that he is, Singh accepted. “I was getting ready to leave for that dinner, when I got a call from someone to alert me that actually a trap was being laid for me. I then feigned illness and didn’t go.’’

I, frankly, didn’t understand; it sounded like a lot of balderdash to me. So Singh explained that they had actually been trying to lure Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, to catch him hobnobbing with some entirely unknown BJP MPs. When they didn’t succeed in fooling Patel, they tried for the next best thing: Singh, who — as the Bombay Congress president — is considered his party’s moneybags. It would have been entirely believable that he had been trying to woo some BJP MPs with cash, “and even you would not have believed in my innocence, if they had succeeded,’’ Singh said.

Although Singh told me that the money for the operation had come from the BJP’s Madhya Pradesh coffers, I dismissed the story as not a figment of Singh’s imagination but a delusion of grandeur – a need to be seen as more important than he really was. For, it was impossible to believe that any MP would put himself up for sale thus and, frankly, at that time the entire sequence of events seemed so incredible/unbelievable.

But now I am with former Samajwadi Party facilitator Amar Singh, at the center of this controversy, when he says those bundles of cash should have immediately been subjected to forensic tests for fingerprints and bank labels to ascertain where they really came from and who had handled those notes, instead of being brandished in the Lok Sabha, which was a classic way of destroying the evidence.

Now that that evidence is lost, we will never know what really happened. But, as with everything in the realm of mystery, I guess the truth lies between the Congress and the BJP positions on the matter. In either case, if there was an attempt to buy MPs, the Congress has much to answer for. And if, like Kripashankar Singh says, there was an attempt to trap Congress leaders into buying those MPs, all that can be said is that the BJP will stop at nothing in their desperation to return to power.

So Rudy might as well rehearse measured reactions, rather than the personal insults he is wont to indulge in, in response to such exposes. And both Ahmed Patel and Kripashankar Singh just went up in my estimation: for resisting the temptation of the lure, however bizarre that might have been!

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