Tejpal rape trial also packs political punch (Election Special)

Posted By: IANS
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Tejpal case kicks up political storm
Panaji, April 1:  While lawyers on both sides of the bar sweat it out in the courtroom debating the Tarun Tejpal rape trial, on the outside the former Tehelka editor-in-chief is unwittingly kicking up a political storm.

The Congress has occasionally taken potshots at Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's seemingly bi-polar Goa Police which they claim was shockingly efficient when it comes to snaring Tejpal after an elaborate high profile chase and is shoddy and inept when it comes to arresting mining magnates and top politicians in Goa's Rs.35,000 crore mining scam.

But Facebook, the social media platform where Goa's urban and savvy electorate take political potshots and indulge in virtual trench warfare, has now been ignited, after comments Saturday by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Swati Kerkar regarding the Tejpal case.

"You (Parrikar) have chased Tejpal enough. But you have yet to arrest ministers involved in the mining scam," AAP's South Goa candidate Kerkar said at the party's first major public meeting in Panaji where its central leader Manish Sisodia was also in attendance.

Kerkar's comments are a sum of criticism from political as well as civil society quarters of Parrikar and his handling of the Goa mining scandal.

After going hammer and tongs against illegal mining trade for seven years, Parrikar after coming to power in 2012 first ruled out any illegal mining in Goa. He has been accused of scaling down the scam while going slow against politicians and mining magnates involved in the loot.

Kerkar's comments have, however, accentuated battle lines between the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) online cheerleaders and AAP supporters.

"I cannot believe that a woman would support ... Tejpal for political gains. And she claims to be an activist for women's rights? Shame on Swati Kerkar! As a woman I am outraged," says Shefali Vaidya, one of the many Facebookers who have been aggressively supporting the BJP.

Parrikar's elder son, the usually reticent Utpal, too joined forces by asking how exactly had the government, headed by his father, gone overboard on the Tejpal issue. "How has the government gone overboard with Tejpal? Why the soft corner?" Utpal asks AAP member Valmiki Naik.

The latter has called the accusations baseless and below the belt because Kerkar had never supported Tejpal in her comments.

"But is this how low BJP will stoop? ...I publicly challenge Shefali Vaidya to speak with Swati Kerkar to know her opinion; if not, she has to apologize for maligning her image."

This single debate on popular Facebook forum Goa+, which has over 38,000 members, has even resulted in the 'unfriending' of former Facebook friends on both sides of the political divide.

Tejpal was arrested after an elaborate multi-state chase by the Goa Police after a junior colleague accused him of allegedly raping her in an elevator during a high-profile conference organized by the owners of Tehelka, a national weekly magazine.

This is not the first time Tejpal has 'inspired' a political battle.

More than a decade ago, a Tehelka sting operation on arms trade had implicated the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.


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