Hyderabad, Nov 29 (): Tehelka’s founder’s present predicament is music to a man who is brought back to focus.
Every story on the Tehelka sex scandal has a reference to Bangaru Laxman. Tejpal himself dug this out to say BJP is hunting him for his sting on this man. The disgraced politician Bangaru Laxman is one of the biggest catch in the investigative operations of Tejpal’s tehelka.com that eventually made it known nationally and soon became Tehelka magazine, which is now mired in a scandal-ridden crisis.
Bangaru Laxman was then President of BJP and at a time when his party was heading the NDA. Two arms dealers came to him in 2001 to help them clinch a deal with the defence ministry. Laxman assured them of help and even pulled in George Fernandes then Defence Minister into it.
Next was a grainy video that appeared in tehelka.com of Laxman’s offer of help. Laxman recovering from a neurological problem in a hospital here has not forgotten the weeks that followed when the sting caught him taking Rs 1 lakh. This sent the one-time union minister, MP and head of a ruling party to the dumps. Fernandes resigned. The word ‘sting’ began to be equated with Bangaru Laxman.
Laxman scoffs and says what a fall! Those who pretend to be righteous go down to such low levels, using immoral methods and practices in the name of exposing corruption, said the former BJP president from his bed in a Hyderabad hospital, referring to the sexual assault charge by a woman journalist against Tejpal.
For those who are still associated with Tehelka and the stated ideals and its investigative goal, this comment must be too harsh as even a man like Laxman is now giving lectures on morality to them.
Tejpalisms would have normally silenced Laxman but he has to tackle the Goa Police sniffing around. Shoma Choudury in her personal capacity could have replied to 74-year-old politician who was consigned to the dustbin of politics, but again she has the NCW and several media interactions to take care of.
Laxman, was projected as the BJP’s face of the weaker sections, had no option but to step down once the footage went viral and caught the imagination of a nation’s cynicism about politicians.
Convicted and jailed for a shortwhile, Bangaru’s historic description of Muslims being the flesh of our flesh and the blood of our blood was forgotten. Laxman thundered asking law cannot be different for Godman Asaram Bapu and his son Narayan Sai and for Tejpal, both accused of sexual assault. Laxman said nobody can hide any longer and said a man of wealth cannot seek atonement and spiritual relief for his act.
Summing the whole incident, Laxman said that Tejpal has fallen into the grave that he had dug for others. Tejpal like others might say that the CCTV footage was tampered and as Aam Aadmi Party claims the sting video is doctored, Laxman too takes this route.
He says that he accepted the money because they gave it to him saying it was for the party fund. All political parties accept public donations, he said. What is one lakh rupees for BJP?,he asks.
The Tehelka men came to him posing as businessmen willing to invest Rs 5,000 crore in India. They wanted to invest in telecom, power generation and defence among others. As president of the ruling party, he was interested in getting such big investment in India. He discussed a number of issues, but Tehelka edited and showed only what they wanted to show, he said.
Laxman was a minister of state for railways in the 1999 NDA government. In 2000 he became the BJP president, till the Operation West End, the sting in 2001, cost him his party job.
Twelve years later in April 2012, a CBI court under the Prevention of Corruption Act sentenced him to four years in jail. Soon after the CBI court judgement, Laxman resigned from the BJP national executive. He spent sometime in jail on medical grounds and was granted bail. An appeal against the court verdict is pending.
His wife Susheela Laxman Bangaru was elected from Jalore in Rajasthan on a BJP ticket in the previous Lok Sabha polls. Laxman’s son works in a company in Delhi and his three daughters are also in the capital. He has an ancestral home here but is in Delhi most of the time with his children.