Row breaks out over "fixing" of Chhattisgarh assembly bypoll

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Raipur/New Delhi, Dec 30: A row erupted today after an audio tape containing telephonic talks purportedly between Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh's son-in-law, Congress leader Ajit Jogi and his son Amit surfaced, pointing at their alleged involvement in "fixing" the bypoll to an assembly seat last year.

The Congress candidate for Antagarh (ST) seat Manturam Pawar, then considered an Ajit Jogi loyalist, had withdrawn from the fray just a day ahead of the deadline and was later expelled from the party.

Fixing in Chhattisgarh assembly bypoll?

The tape purportedly contains conversations suggesting money exchanged hands. The tape purported has conversations between Amit, son of the state's former chief minister Ajit Jogi, Raman Singh's son-in-law Puneet Gupta, Pawar and former Jogi loyalists Firoz Siddiqui and Ameen Memon.

As a political row broke out, state Congress president Bhupesh Baghel served a show cause notice to Amit Jogi seeking his reply within seven days.

The main opposition party demanded Singh's sacking and a Supreme Court- monitored SIT probe into the matter, while BJP rejected the allegations, saying it was the result of "infighting" in the state Congress.

Raman Singh also trashed the allegation as "baseless" and a bid by the Congress to "drag BJP and his family" into controversy, while Ajit Jogi dismissed the charge as "completely false".

"Raman Singh has disgraced democracy. He misused his power and black money to influence the democratic process," Baghel told reporters.

"We demand that the Governor recommend to the President of India dismissal of the Raman Singh government," he said.

He also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter under Supreme Court supervision. Baghel said Congress had smelt "foul play" soon after Pawar withdrew his candidature at the last minute and even complained to the Election Commission.

"Now the audio tape has proved how the ruling party misused its power to win the election," Baghel said.

The state Congress president said the matter will be discussed with Ajit Jogi before a "complete report" is sent to the party high command, he said, adding Siddiqui and Memon will also be questioned.

In Delhi, Congress general secretary BK Hariprasad said the central party leadership has decided to wait for a report from the state unit before deciding on any action against Ajit Jogi "since he is a member of the Congress working Committee".

"As far as Ajit Jogi is concerned, he is a Congress Working Committee member and only Congress President can take action against him.

"After going through the report of the state unit into this matter, the AICC Disciplinary Committee headed by AK Antony will take a call on action about Ajit Jogi," he said.

PTI 

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