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Uttarakhand ex-CM booked by CBI for horse-trading

Uttarakhand ex-CM booked by CBI for horse-trading

New Delhi: The CBI has filed an FIR against former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat and his then Cabinet colleague Harak Singh Rawat, who is now a minister in the state’s BJP-led government, for alleged attempts of horse trading in 2016, which was caught on tape by an editor of a news channel, officials said on Wednesday.

The agency had conducted an preliminary inquiry into the alleged horse trading attempt on March 23, 2016, when the state was under President’s rule.

It sent the tape to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Gandhinagar in Gujarat, for analysis which said that the recording was “genuine” and there was no evidence of any “addition/deletion/insertion/tampering/morphing” in the video files. The video purportedly showed the Congress leader discussing money to win back the support of disgruntled MLAs who had crossed over to the BJP so that he could get back to power. Recently, the Uttarakhand high court gave its nod to the CBI to go ahead with its investigation in the case and lodge an FIR against Mr Rawat after the agency submitted a preliminary inquiry report in a sealed cover.

Besides Harish Rawat and Harak Singh Rawat, who joined the BJP later and is now a minister in the Trivender Singh Rawat-led Cabinet, the CBI has also booked editor-in-chief of Noida-based Samachar Plus channel, Umesh Sharma, who had purportedly carried out the sting operation in the airport lounge, the officials said.

The CBI has slapped Indian Penal Code section pertaining to criminal conspiracy and bribery provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act on the trio.

On March 18, 2016, nine Congress rebels joined the BJP in the state Assembly on the state’s annual budget, reducing the Harish Rawat government to a minority.

Two days before Mr Rawat was to face a vote of confidence on March 28, 2016, rebel Congress MLAs, led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, had alleged that they were offered bribe by Mr Rawat for support during the floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly and released a video of the “sting” operation. After the video surfaced, the Centre handed over the probe to the CBI. During the preliminary inquiry stage, the CBI had questioned Harish Rawat and Umesh Sharma.

Mr Sharma was allegedly acting on behalf of Harak Singh Rawat who, along with dissident MLAs of Congress, had moved to Gurgaon in a chartered flight bringing the Harish Rawat government to minority, the CBI alleged in the FIR.

Mr Sharma had allegedly met Harak Singh Rawat in Gurgaon and entered into a criminal conspiracy to demand bribe from Harish Rawat to come back to the Congress fold along with two more MLAs, the FIR said.

The CBI also alleged that Mr Sharma fixed a meeting with Harish Rawat in the VIP lounge of Dehradun airport on March 23, 2016, which he recorded using his mobile phone.

During the discussion caught on tape, Harish Rawat and Mr Sharma allegedly agreed on the induction of Harak Singh as minister, two departments of his choice and illegal gratification of Rs 15 crore, it said.

It was also caught on tape that Harish Rawat told Mr Sharma that he had no money to pay the dissidents and the best he could do is that they can earn from the departments which can even be Rs 30 crore, the agency found in the PE.

Mr Sharma proposed that he would arrange Rs 5-7 crore, later increased that to Rs 10 crore, from somewhere and asked Harish Rawat to arrange another Rs 5 crore, at which point Rawat asked him to arrange the money, come to him six days later and the money would be returned with topping of one or two, the FIR alleged.

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