Former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly has accused the Congress of having a hand in the Tehelka sting ‘Operation West End’, which led to then Defence Minister George Fernandes’ resignation and that when UPA was in power, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked then Finance Minister P Chidambaram to ensure that Tehelka’s alleged financiers are not treated in an “unfair” or “unjust” manner.
Jaitly has made these claims in her upcoming autobiography “Life among the Scorpions: Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics”, which is due to be released on Tuesday.
Informed sources have confirmed that Jaitly has presented a copy of the letter in the book. It also has a copy of a two-page letter from First Global, the alleged financiers of Tehelka, petitioning Sonia Gandhi, the then Chairperson of National Advisory Council.
In the autobiography published by Rupa, Jaitly also recalls that when Fernandes insisted on resigning, then Union Ministers LK Advani and Jaswant Singh advised against it. Soon after, Jaswant Singh brought the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s message to the Defence Minister, accepting his resignation.
“George Fernandes was only too eager to oblige,” she said. However, Jaitly was miffed that she had also been asked to resign as Samata Party chief by Vajpayee, while she had made her stand clear in her own party that she had done nothing wrong and would not resign.
She also claims that the Congress, which was then in Opposition, was the ultimate beneficiary of the sting by Tehelka, which allegedly received hawala funds.
Jaitly also recounts her experiences during the investigations under the Commission of Inquiry, instituted after the Tehelka sting. When the matter was suddenly and arbitrarily sent to a court, she says she feared that the judge, who convicted former BJP president Bangaru Laxman of bribery and was hearing her case too, would eventually convict her irrespective of her arguments.
In the book, Jaitly further recollects her meeting with alleged arms middleman Christian Michel, and how he bragged about helping Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao to spy on Sonia Gandhi and then went on to offer her an opportunity to make a “huge pile of money” for her party.
In the context of her revelations on how defence deals are done in India, Jaitly mentions a meeting with an unnamed senior Congressman where he informed her that people were willing to pay “Rs 20 lakh to have a cup of tea” with her. When she asked him why, he explained that “it cuts the competition”.
This, according to the book, was during the first NDA Government and Fernandes the Defence Minister.