The CobraPost-Gulail “expose” on what is purported to be a conversation between close Narendra Modi aide Amit Shah and a Gujarat IPS officer now accused of complicity in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case is unlikely to be the last of such efforts to dent the popularity of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, BJP sources say.
A source with close knowledge of how the whole business of sting and disclosure works in New Delhi’s political circuit said the Gulail-CobraPost expose is likely to be followed up with regular scandal breaks at intervals of one or one-and-a-half months right up to the May 2014 general elections.
“This is only the beginning. A lot more will be dug up till the polling actually happens in April-May 2014”, this source claimed. “Narendra Modi is a work in progress.”
While it remains to be seen how much of the mud will stick ultimately, the political effort behind this is driven by the worry that Modi is making a connect with the urban middle class. If enough doubts are created about his character, at least a section of this class will turn against him. If that happens, Modi’s political rivals will consider their battle half won.
The BJP is bracing for this onslaught even though the nature of the recent expose came as a surprise. Top sources in the party always knew that Modi is a red rag to the Congress bull, and no efforts will be spared to taint him. Modi himself brought this possibility up at a joint meeting of the RSS-BJP coordination committee held before he was named the party’s prime ministerial candidate. The meeting decided that the party would take this onslaught head-on, whatever the consequences.
The swiftness with which senior Congress leaders, beginning with Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and some of the top women leaders of the party - Jayanti Natarajan, Girija Vyas, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Shobha Ojha and others - questioned Modi’s credentials for being considered a prime ministerial candidate prompted the BJP to counter-attack hard.
BJP leaders are hoping that the people will see through the Congress’s “nefarious designs” and nullify the shock value of such exposes. In the latest expose, where the purported conversation between Amit Shah and the IPS officer concerned the surveillance of a woman on the orders of “Saheb”, the party privately points out that neither the girl nor her family has made a fuss about it. Soon after the expose, the girl’s father said he had asked for someone to keep a check on his daughter.
Interestingly, it is being speculated that the main reason why Rahul Gandhi reached three hours behind schedule at an election meeting in Delhi was to give his party’s women’s brigade uninterrupted time to launch their tirade against Modi. The other reason, of course, was the poor attendance at the venue. The rally ended in a total fiasco.
BJP President Rajnath Singh and spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi have stuck to the official line that the expose was the work of the Congresss party’s dirty tricks department or its surrogates.
There are two interesting facts related to this expose. A day before, and on day of the expose, an anonymous letter written by “an honest officer” was received by several journalists in Delhi by post at their residential addresses.
The letter broadly detailed the same things mentioned in the expose. Additionally, it quantified the virtues of Pradeep Sharma, a Gujarat cadre IAS officer who was jailed for eight alleged cases of corruption when he was posted in Kutch as collector. It was during his tenure as Bhavnagar Municipal Commissioner that he came in contact with the lady. Pradeep Sharma’s elder brother Kuldeep Sharma, a retired IPS officer, is an advisor in the Union home ministry. The Sharma brothers are seen as Modi baiters.
Another interesting story doing the rounds is that leaders close to one political party were contacted a week before the official disclosure last Friday, but they declined to directly participate in the press conference for fears it would make them complicit in the operation.
One of the leaders was reportedly requested to file a PIL on the basis of the expose, but he is said to have pointed out that at best the case amounted to misuse of state machinery for private purposes, which would anyway be difficult to prove on the basis of a taped conversation.
However, the websites did manage to create a panel discussion in which Aruna Roy, a former member of the National Advisory Council of Sonia Gandhi, participated.
The news was not picked up by TV news channels on that day but some prominent newspapers carried the story the next day. Sources said some efforts were mounted at the home of a senior journalist in Delhi to convince the channels of the importance of the expose, but this could not be verified.
The CBI, which is in possession of these tapes, has maintained a deathly silence on it. The silence is eloquent.
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Updated Date: Nov 19, 2013 20:19:19 IST