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Congress, BJP trade charges following Laxman's sentencing

New Delhi, April 28 - The four-year jail term Saturday to Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) former president Bangaru Laxman for accepting bribes triggered a political slugfest with the Congress asking the BJP to "self-introspect" and the latter accusing it of not doing enough to book the guilty in the Commonwealth Games and 2G spectrum scams.

Congress spokesperson Raashid Alvi took a dig at the BJP over the four-year sentence awarded to Laxman, saying it was the first time a national president of a national party had been found guilty and punished by a court of law.

"It is proper time for the BJP to do self-analysis, to rethink about its organisation," Alvi said.

He added the Congress was not looking at the situation with any sense of happiness.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said conviction in the case was Laxman's "pesonal liability", but added that he was entitled to take legal remedies.

Prasad accused the government of not allowing fair probe in some other cases of corruption, including alleged payoffs to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrochhi in the Bofors gun deal.

Another party leader, Shahnawaz Hussain said the BJP was committed to fighting corruption. He said the decision to remove Laxman as the party president was taken "within hours" of the bribery allegations.

"The BJP does not cover up corruption," he said and added that the Congress was "speaking a lot" on the case involving Laxman but was quiet on many other cases of corruption.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said Laxman should have been convicted long back as it was a "clear" case of a political leader accepting money for favours.

Karat said there was prima facie evidence in the case involving Laxman and conviction should have happened in a year.

"It also shows infirmities in our legal system," she said.

The CPI-M leader said people wanted to know if it will take longer in cases involving corruption of crores of rupees when it had taken over a decade to bring the guilty to book in case involving a sum of one lakh rupees.

Shoma Chaudhary, managing editor of Tehelka, which in 2001 released CDs showing Laxman accepting money from an undercover journalist posing as an arms dealer, expressed satisfaction over "powerful people" being brought to book.

She said a "witchhunt was unleashed" against Tehelka following the expose.

A Delhi court Saturday awarded four years' rigorous imprisonment to Laxman for accepting a bribe from a fake arms dealer in the graft case. The court also slapped him with a fine of Rs.1 lakh.

Newsportal had carried out a sting operation in 2001 that caught Laxman on camera receiving money from a journalist posing as an arms dealer. He later resigned as the BJP chief.

The CDs released by Tehelka had shown Laxman accepting money for promise of assistance to a fictitious Britain-based company M/s West End International in securing a contract for the supply of thermal imagers to the Indian Army.


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