New Delhi, April 27 - The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) distanced itself from its former chief Bangaru Laxman, who was Friday convicted in a fake arms deal graft case, terming the verdict a "decision on his personal conduct", while the Congress said it had exposed the BJP's true face.
"This is Bangaru's personal matter. The verdict is court's decision on his personal conduct and not on BJP," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters.
"On a personal level, he has complete right to defend himself further and decide the future course of action," he added.
Laxman was convicted by a Delhi court Friday for accepting a bribe from a fake arms dealer in a 10-year-old graft case. The case dates back to 2001, when newsportal Tehelka.com carried out a sting operation that caught Laxman on camera receiving Rs.1 lakh in cash from an undercover journalist, posing as an arms dealer.
In its reaction, the Congress hit out against the BJP that had been demanding a judicial inquiry into the Bofors scam in parliament. The party welcomed the verdict, saying the BJP's true face is out for people to know.
"Had Jaswant Singhji demanded for a judicial commission on Tehelka sting in the Lok Sabha yesterday, I would have accepted that BJP was an honest and upright party," said union minister Kapil Sibal, referring to the BJP leader's impassioned plea Thursday for a fresh probe in the Bofors scam.
"But when you (BJP) try to raise a 25-year-old incident in which there's no proof and try to hide the reality, it clearly reveals the double-faced politics of BJP," he added.
Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said the verdict indicated the need for the BJP to self-introspect.
"The country knows now that before advising others about morality, the BJP needs to look into its own management. If the BJP has capacity for introspection, they need to do it," Tiwari told reporters.
Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary D. Raja said the verdict was a revelation of the "rot in defence system of the country".
"A rot has set in in our defence mechanism which is now shockingly revealed. We have to take some drastic measures to clean up the system," Raja told reporters.
The CBI, in its charge sheet, said that Laxman accepted Rs.1 lakh from the representatives of the purported firm in 2001 at his party office for pursuing their proposal to supply certain products to the army.
The court said the CBI has established its case against Laxman for accepting bribe from a fake arms dealer. Senior journalist and part of the sting team Aaniruddha Bahal said the case, that had also taken the newsportal through a rough course, is an embarrassment for the BJP.
"If a party president's conduct is like this, obviously it would be an embarrassment for any party. But it was not our ambition at all to target particular individuals, or target a particular party at all," said Bahal, founder and editor-in-chief of investigative news website and production house Cobrapostcom.
"The investigation took us where it took us, which is what we have said, throughout and which is what happened, actually," he added.