A new book by former Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitley has sensationally alleged that the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi had stepped in to stop the investigations against the investigative magazine Tehelka.
This was after Tehelka had exposed the large-scale corruption in the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s defence deals. Tehelka journalists, in a sting, had posed as arms suppliers from a fictitious company and met politicians and officials to “swing” deals.
BJP chief Bangaru Laxman was caught on camera accepting cash and stashing them in his drawer in the sting. He was convicted by a court later.
The Vajpayee government had come down on Tehelka like a ton of bricks with a number of cases being filed against promoters of First Global, Devina Mehra and Shankar Sharma, who had a stake in Tehelka, by various investigation agencies.
Three years after the sting in 2004, the Congress-led UPA government came to power. The Tehelka promoters reportedly wrote to Sonia Gandhi complaining of harassment by the agencies.
Jaitley, who was a close aide of the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, wrote in her book “Life among the Scorpions: Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics,” wrote to then Finance Minister P Chidambaram and asked him to ensure that Tehelka’s financiers were not treated in an “unfair or unjust” manner.
Chidambaram has responded to the claims in Jaitley’s book saying that it doesn’t mention his replies to Sonia Gandhi.
He said, “My noting on the letter is correct. I am certain that, on behalf of the ministry, I would have sent a reply based on the material put up to me. The letter of Mrs Gandhi and my reply should be read together. I suggest that the media may ask the government to release the reply to the letter.”