Former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly has accused the Congress of having a hand in the Tehelka sting 'Operation West End', which led to then Defence Minister George Fernandes' resignation and that when UPA was in power, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked then Finance Minister P Chidambram to ensure that Tehelka's alleged financiers are not treated in an "unfair" or "unjust" manner.
The author has made these claims in her memoir, 'Life Among the Scorpions: Memoirs of an Indian Woman in Public Life'. The book hints at the links between Gandhi and the Tehelka news portal, particularly in the Tehelka sting 'Operation Westend.'
"I included the letter in my book to show the truth behind accusations against me that I met with wrong people and assured them of my help in exchange for money. The wrong people were fake. Neither did I give them any assurances, nor asked and received any money. I have been going to court for nine years for the wrong allegations," Jaitly told ANI.
Meanwhile, Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy on Monday urged the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to register a case against Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the basis of letters revealed by former Samata Party President Jaya Jaitly, which were purportedly written by Gandhi to former finance minister P Chidambaram.
"CBI can register a case in the preventional corruption act because she(Sonia Gandhi) wrote the letter under the official title of the chairman of the National Advisory Council and ED can file a case of money laundering. Both Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh are equally culpable because they had assisted in the commission of the crime," he said.
The former Union Minister claimed that he had released a similar letter two years ago, but nobody took it seriously at that time.
"I had released a similar letter two years ago, which was written by Sonia Gandhi, the then chairman of the National advisory council to Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India to save Tejpal (former editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine) from all the cases that were piled on by the NDA govt," Swamy said.
Jaitly referred to the ongoing nine-year-long corruption case against her, wherein the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet alleging that she had accepted a bribe of Rs 2 lakh in 2001. She was alleged to have accepted the money in exchange for persuading former defence minister George Fernandes to award the contract of hand-held thermal imagers to a company named West End International.
The case was registered on the basis of a sting, 'Operation Westend,' conducted by news portal Tehelka in 2000, purportedly exposing alleged corruption in defence deals.
There are, in total, three letters enclosed in the book. They are - a letter by Tehelka directors and a letter by Tehelka Financiers - First Global Directors addressed to Gandhi and the third letter from Gandhi to Chidambaram on behalf of Tehelka and its financiers. The book further hints that Sonia tried to convince Chidambaram to shield the Tehelka financiers.
"I positioned the letter in such a way to show that a letter was written to someone who is even above the prime minister, who then wrote to the finance minister relating their problem, and immediately the problem was solved. This is the reality unlike the allegations against me which are fake," Jaitly said, and added, "to save a person, who paid Tehelka to conduct a sting operation, there must be some connection."
"Without having any official post in the government, Sonia Gandhi writing letter to the finance minister shows how much power she held," Jaitly said, and added, "Unlike the usual delay in official matters, an action was taken within five days. They were so energetic. Was this the only work they had after coming in the Centre?"
Meanwhile, Congress leader Manish Tewari reacted to the entire controversy and said "Tehelka" was targeted by the NDA-BJP government for exposing the dirty dealings of their associates.
"In 2001, a news portal called Tehelka carried out a sting, in which they exposed the dirty dealings of a number of eminences associated with the NDA-BJP government, including the then BJP President Bangaru Laxman. He was caught on candid camera taking money for allegedly doing favours in a defence deal. Subsequently, the NDA-BJP govt came down like a tonne of bricks on that news portal," Tewari claimed.
The former Union Minister alleged that the news portal was hounded by the NDA government, due to which the UPA government was forced to intervene.
"It was the classical case of shooting the messenger rather than listening to the message. Exactly in the manner in which today the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income-Tax department is being abused by this government against its political opponents. In fact, a commissioner inquiry was constituted that got nowhere and on the other hand, a news organisation which had done its legitimate duty was hounded to the ground. Under those circumstances, an intervention with the right intent for the freedom of speech and expression was done at that point of time to ensure that vendetta and witch hunt comes to an end," Tewari said.