The political arena in the state of Chattisgarh is in the midst of a turmoil ahead of the crucial Assembly elections scheduled for November-December this year.
The political arena in the state of Chhattisgarh is in the midst of a turmoil ahead of the crucial Assembly elections scheduled for November-December this year. At the centre of the political mud-slinging is a purported ‘sex CD case’. In a significant development in the case on Monday, the CBI arrested Congress’ state unit chief Bhupesh Bhagel and produced him before a special court which sent him to 14 days judicial custody.
Bhagel has claimed that he is innocent and insisted on staging a ‘Satyagraha’ from jail despite the charges against him being bailable. Here’s a look at what this case is all about and how it can affect the course of politics in Chhattisgarh:
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What is Chattisgarh ‘sex CD case’?
The controversy revolves around a CD which allegedly contains objectional footage of Chattisgarh Minister Rajesh Munat. As per BJP leader Prakash Bajaj’s complaint, the CD was doctored and circulated by Congress politicians and senior journalist Vinod Verma with an intent to malign his image.
When did the case come to light?
On October 27, 2016, the Chattisgarh Police arrested senior journalist Vinod Verma from his Ghaziabad residence in Uttar Pradesh. Later, it was revealed that Verma was arrested over allegations of extortion. According to the Raipur Police, Verma was arrested following a complaint lodged by Chhattisgarh BJP leader Prakash Bajaj on October 26. Bajaj, in his complaint, said that an anonymous caller threatened to make public the CDs if the minister did not pay up. The police claimed that they recovered as many as 500 copies of CDs from Verma.
Vinod Verma’s alleged link to Chattisgarh
Verma, who had been an editor with the BBC and Amar Ujala, was a member of the Editors’ Guild of India at that time. He was also working as a consultant to Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel at the time of arrest. In March 2016, Verma was a part of three-member fact-finding committee working on challenges faced by journalists in the state. In its report, the committee found that journalists were “working under tremendous pressure” and there was a “sense of fear” among them. It mentioned journalist complaining about their phones being tapped by the state government.
Arrest of Baghel and other Congress leaders
On October 28, 2017, a day after Verma’s arrest, Rajesh Munat filed an FIR against Bhupesh Baghel. As the controversy snowballed and the Opposition accused the ruling party of misusing power, the Raman Singh-led Chattisgarh government recommended a CBI probe into the matter. On Monday, the CBI filed a chargesheet in the special court against Baghel, journalist Vinod Verma, a businessman named Vijay Bhatia and one other.
CM Raman Singh’s stand on the issue
Chief Minister Raman Singh maintained that the CBI is probing the matter and state government has no interference in it. “It is a judicial proceeding and the facts will come out. It is for the CBI to decide when to summon or file a chargesheet against someone, not the government,” Singh said. The chief minister has further described the “sex CD” case as an unfortunate incident and said it was a conspiracy to end the political career of a minister and an insult to a woman.
Congress’ stand and politics over the issue
With Congress’ state unit chief Bhupesh Baghel arrested in the incident, the party has reacted strongly on the issue. Leading the charge himself, Baghel has termed the arrests as political and called for a Jail-Bharo moment just before the state goes to polls. The message that the Congress is trying to put across is that the arrests are a form of political vendetta by the ruling government. The BJP, on the other hand, has termed it as an attempt to tarnish the image of a senior party leader by the former.