Trouble for Raman Singh, Ajit Jogi: Shocking recordings show money changed hands to ensure BJP’s victory


Recordings of shocking conversations have emerged suggesting an alleged deal was struck between the Congress and the BJP in Chattisgarh by-election in 2013 to help the saffron party win the crucial poll in Bastar region.

According to the purported conversations accessed by The Indian Express, the Congress candidate, Manturam Pawar, pulled out of the race just a day before the last date of filing of the nomination, giving a walkover to the BJP candidate.

Even more shocking is that Pawar is heard saying that as part of the deal, he also spoke to Chief Minister Raman Singh couple of times.

The conversations show a deal was struck to ensure the Congress candidate Pawar withdraw from the poll allowing the BJP candidate to have a walkover in Antagarh (ST-reserved seat). The election took place on 13 September 2014 with the BJP candidate Bhijraj Nag winning by over 62,000 votes.

The bypoll was caused because of the election of the incumbent MLA, Vikram Usendi, to the Lok Sabha as a BJP MP just three months earlier., can’t verify these allegations.

These conversation are between Puneet Gupta, the son-in-law of the Chhattisgarh chief minister, Raman Singh, former Chhattisgarh CM, Ajit Jogi, his son Amit Jogi, Ameen Memon (a Jogi loyalst), Firoz Siddiqui (another former Jogi loyalist) and Manturam Pawar (then Congress candidate but now with the BJP).

Both Pawar and Siddiqui have confirmed their voices on the tape. But Amit Jogi, Ajit Jogi and Gupta denied any involvement. Amit Jogi, after he was contacted by newspaper, sent an email through a representative asking it to “cease and desist” from publication because, he claimed, the recordings were “doctored or fabricated,” and that he “had no role, whatsoever, in withdrawal of candidature of Manturam Pawar.”

Chief Minister Raman Singh said: “BJP and myself have nothing to do with the withdrawal of the candidate. It is their internal matter. Hence there is no question of CM’s house or anybody meeting (anyone) in this regard. I categorically deny these allegations.”

Pawar withdrew from the race on 29 August — the last date for withdrawal was 30 August — and he was expelled by the Congress days later. The Congress asked the Election Commission to countermand the bypoll alleging that the BJP had “purchased” the candidate. BJP’s Bhojraj Nag eventually emerged victorious with 63,616 votes — Pawar withdrew along with 10 Independents. Nag’s only rival was a candidate from the Ambedkaratie Party of India who got barely 12086 votes, less than 13,506 NOTA votes. In March this year, Pawar joined the BJP.

In the 2013 assembly elections, Congress had won 8 of the 12 seats in Bastar. Manturam Pawar lost Antagarh by mere 5171 votes. Victory in the by-poll would have confirmed Congress hold in the region. It was also the first assembly election for PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel. The rival Jogi camp wanted him to lose, and pitch their candidate for the post. After Pawar’s sudden withdrawal, Ajit Jogi had attacked the PCC leadership, blaming it for the debacle.

A party that had won 11 of the 12 seats in 2003 and 2008 elections in Bastar was reduced to just 4 in 2013, confirming the tribal sentiment against the government. In the by-poll the party was also without its star candidate Vikram Usendi, who had been elected to LS, and had a weak nominee in Bhojraj Nag. The loss of another seat would have badly hit Raman Singh’s image.

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