Bangaru Laxman died a dejected man! At the age of 75, the old, the infirm man was bound to a wheel chair, unable to move. Not much political activities around, not many visitors, he was companied just by his family members, in a modest flat in Hyderabad.
He was not visited by too many journalists either, in his twilight years. Only once, when some Hyderabad journo arrived at his flat during when Tarun Tejpal was facing arrest in Goa, he had talked to the press.
“It is a life in exile”, he had lamented.
When asked about Tejpal’s plight, he quietly said, “Tehelka created its own bubble of uprightness and morals and went about conducting sting operations on people as if they were hardcore criminals to gather evidence using unethical methods. But now its leader himself has been exposed! I did not ask for the Rs 1 lakh which I was caught accepting. The undercover journalists trapped me into accepting it as a party fund”.
He felt more disappointed, when to keep an upright image, BJP’s stalwarts hurriedly showed him the door, after so many years of his service to the party!
Yes there were dissents within the Party. Some of them told that it was a norm to accept donation for every party, Bangaru did no wrong! While Congress in the last Parliamentary election spent Rs. 120 Crore, where the money came from? It was an entrapment and Bangaru was targeted because he was the most vulnerable!
Even Bangaru Laxman told the same thing.
Laxman was elected BJP president in September 2000 and this happened within just two months. Virtually he was not even settled into his post.
“Before that, I was not so well known in the corridors of power of Delhi. I was not known as a notorious person who needed to be exposed. They simply chose me to take the advantage”, he said.
He was not a fly by night activist.
The first Dalit President of BJP joined politics at an early age.
He joined the RSS in 1951, at the age of 12.
After working in Andhra State Electricity Department, the Railways and Accountant General Office he resigned from the Government job in 1969, to become a full time political worker.
He joined Jan Sangh in the same year and was intensely involved in Trade Union Movements.
He had led the Trade Unions in many organistions, including Singareni Colliery, BHEL, FCI, Kesoram Cement, The Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad, among many others.
During the Emergency, he was jailed for 16 Months under notorious MISA.
Bangaru Laxman was elected the General Secretary of Andhra Pradesh State Janata Party in 1978 and was the General Secretary of AP unit of the BJP from 1980 to1985. He became the President of Andhra Pradesh BJP, in the year 1986.
He came to the Rajya Sabha in 1996.
During third Vajpayee Ministry, in November 1999, he was made Minister of State in the Railways.
He became the Party President in 2000.
The timing was significant.
After Narsimha Rao’s exit, Congress could not master enough seats to rule. Though there was not any big opposition to it.
Two United Front Governments were mostly relied on Congress support and fell.
Though in the elections of 1996, BJP had clinched 161 seats but could not master enough support. The first Vajpayee Government ran for 13 days.
In 1999, BJP led NDA ran for 13 Months. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK pulled the string, incited by Congress. But even then Congress could not master enough support to form a Government at the Centre.
But the in the Elections held after the Kargil War, BJP-led NDA won 303 seats, out of 543. This was unexpected to Congress.
The Past Congress Ministries were named in various Scams.
Beginning with the Kuo Oil Deals Scam of the Post Emergency years, the Bofors Scam of 1987, the HDW Submarine Scam, the Fertiliser Import Scam, the Sugar Import Scam, St Kitts Scandal, JMM Funding Scandal, Lakhubhai Pathak episode …all were behind.
But all these went through lackadaisical investigation or trials. Not much convictions either.
Questions were asked, how come Tehelka suddenly cropped up in the year 2000, months after Vajpayee Government came to power with a comfortable majority and targeted its key functionaries!
None of those who initiated the project had great journalistic background or such big investigative credential.
Tehelka And The Sting Business
Tarun Tejpal was working mainly a literary critic. Aniruddha Bahal, whom now UPA Government, provided Y category security, protected by 11 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and an official vehicle, was not a known investigating journalist at that time.
Mathew Samuel, who reportedly handed over the money to Bangaru Laxman in the sting operation, was mainly a Malayalam medium journalist.
Three of them obviously had a meeting ground, the office of a Magazine, and that Magazine is always viewed having Congress leaning.
The Sting operation reportedly cost Tehelka Rs.11 Lakhs and took around 8 months.
Rs 11 Lakhs in 2001 was not a small amount. How, the three not so established journalists could venture, spending so much money and their time into a wild chase, where the return was not assured!
To the enquiry commission even they have admitted that they kept no accounts of their expenses and transactions.
It was not even investigated what was the monetary benefit of the Sting! Sources said that the entire thing was sold to Zee TV for a hefty sum.
And secondly, the journalists who have ever covered the Defence establishments know about several tiers of security arrangements around and constant surveillance.
How the two journalists, who were not even speaking NRI type English, kept on moving around the circle unchecked, with a phoney London address and a Company’s name which was unknown!
One of them was quoted: “Although I personally recorded 99 of the 105 tapes, nobody suspected anything. All of them told us that no defence deal could be clinched without wine, women and cash”.
Years later, journalist and environmentalist, Hartman De Souza wrote about another such investigation: The manner in which the operation was run and funds collected raises serious issues of media ethics… It was, in other words, trying to hunt with the hounds and run with the hares!
For an organisation that always asked for transparency and claimed that it had exposed the high and mighty, its finances were always under suspect!
In March 2011, after being worried over the WikiLeaks disclosures of a possible cash-for-votes scam back in 2008, the Congress was suddenly relieved and enlivened, after the publication of a story in Tehelka, which reported that the BJP had masterminded a cash-for-votes sting operation through the CNN-IBN channel in 2008, to destabilise the government!
After the Tehelka report came out, the Home Minister Mr Chidambaram told in the Parliament that the sting operation was not an independent journalistic exercise but there was a “deliberate attempt in collaboration with a political party” to destabilise the Government.
He added that the Delhi Police would include these new revelations in its investigations into the cash-for-votes scam. Which it did in course of time and as a result, many non-Congress MPs, several from BJP later went to Jail.
Questions Always Asked
Former Army Chief General VK Singh has alleged last year of political pressure behind the reported closing of CBI investigation in the alleged bribery case involving Tetra Tuck purchase offer.
The Czech originated Tatra trucks, which came in the news last year following V.K. Singh’s allegation that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing the purchase of 600 of the trucks, reportedly figured in many ‘Operation West End’ Sting tapes lying with CBI since 2001.
Ravi Rishi’s name also came out in places of those conversations, according to Matthew.
But surprisingly nothing much was done on it!
There were many major Defence and other Scams during UPA’s long 10 years tenure, but Tehelka never showed its initiative to expose any one of them. Whereas the Magazine, the Sting Operation’s new Avatar, has published stories one after another implicating BJP and its regional satraps!
The Indian Express has reported that, by using the RTI Act., it acquired copies of 82 pieces of correspondence between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Party President, Sonia Gandhi, after the UPA came to power in May 2004.
One of such letters published in Indian Express, dealt with Tehelka! It talked about Tarun Tejpal’s representation to Sonia Gandhi regarding various investigations initiated against the organisation and Manmohan Singh’s request to concerned Ministries for reviewing their Status and proposed course of action. This was news.
The Tehelka journalists admitted that they did not verify themselves the material they recorded. Hearsay was perhaps sufficient for them. When cross-examined regarding the accuracy of their ‘facts’, they had substantially no evidence available with them!
Justice K Venkataswami resigned from the commission when he was suddenly selected the head of Income Tax Tribunal. It was speculated, he was about to ask for further forensic tests to check the veracity of the tapes. The Commission virtually collapsed, without a Chairman.
How come Congress became so uncooperative with the Justice Phukan, who was trying to find the authenticity of the Tapes!
Even the Supreme Court in its verdict in a separate case has said that the veracity of the Sting operation tapes is questionable.
Why Tehelka, targeted two such Politicians, George Fernandes and Bangaru Laxman, who were known as their Spartan life and lifelong integrity. Was it because, they were the most accessible! Their gates and offices were not guarded by probing security personnel!
Fernandes was absolved of the Charges but he died a forlorn, indisposed and dejected person. Laxman never got the chance to go to the Higher Court.
Laxman once said in an interview, that he had a feeling that it might be a part of a plan laid by the Almighty!
“I feel that I must have committed a mistake in my previous lives”.
Even we don’t know the truth.
But the questions will always remain, was Laxman was trapped!
But why him?
It might be a possibility, it was not him, but his Party. That’s why he was jettisoned immediately by his Party, to save its image!
And it worked.
Again to quote Bangaru Laxman, “I have paid a very heavy price due to that entrapment. Whenever the BJP attacked the UPA over corruption, whether it is Bofors or 3G or Coalgate, my name was pointed out by Congress leaders”.
Bangaru is no more. But the questions will always remain.
By Deep Basu
Image Source: Bangaru Laxman