Ousted chief minister Harish Rawat today virtually admitted his presence in the controversial sting CD, but said it was not a crime to meet a journalist or an MLA and dismissed the conversation shown in the video as “meaningless”.
Alleging that the sting operation and the CBI probe into it were part of a “criminal conspiracy” by BJP to topple an elected government, he dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah to put him in jail if he is found in the wrong.
“If any evidence is found against me, like me offering money or post to anybody, hang me at the Clock Tower,” Rawat, who had so far been insisting that the sting was “fake”, said while addressing party workers at a programme held by Uttarakhand Congress to mark the Labour Day here.
“Why should anyone spend Rs 15 crore for me. The man (journalist) was saying something meaningless to while away my time and I said something to while away his. How does it matter? We keep saying things like this on a daily basis. Does that mean they should be used against us,” Rawat said, adding, his fight to “save democracy” will go on, “come what may”.
“Is meeting a journalist a crime? If one of the MLAs who had not been technically disqualified by that time talked to me...how does it matter? Do we block any channels in politics,” Rawat told reporters on the sidelines of the programme.
Claiming innocence, Rawat said, if anything in the CD showed he made an offer in cash or kind in exchange for the support of disgruntled MLAs, he was ready to be hanged in public.
“I have kept my doors open. I present myself to be sent to jail (in the sting CD case) if that is what Modi baba (PM Narendra Modi) and Amit Shah are up to,” he said.
The sting CD made by the editor-in-chief of a private news channel and circulated by the nine Congress rebels who created a political crisis in the state by siding with opposition BJP in the state Assembly, purportedly shows Rawat negotiating a money deal with the journalist to buy the support of MLAs who had revolted against him.
Training his guns at the Modi-Shah duo, Rawat alleged, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah could “not tolerate” a non-BJP government performing and therefore “toppled” it by hatching a “criminal conspiracy”.
They have been “conspiring” to “systematically bring down” governments in states where BJP is not in power, he said.
Ever since Modi government came to power, it has been “neglecting” Uttarakhand and when it failed to bring down the state dispensation by “money or muscle power,” it “resorted to President’s rule” to dislodge it, he alleged.
Asserting that he was prepared to “bear even a heavier atrocity” if found in the wrong in the sting case, he said, he would not hesitate to face any challenge in his struggle for the development of the people of the state.