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The Captain's Ship Springs a Nasty Leak

The Captain's Ship Springs a Nasty Leak

Author: Ramesh Vinayak
Publication: India Today
Date: February 7, 2005

Even as Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was busy touring the tsunami-hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands last week, his much-flaunted and now taunted anti-corruption drive back home was rocked by sensational cash-and-carry charges against his Man Friday and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi.

The former ace shooter-turned-MLA was the target of a tape-and-trap scandal in which he had allegedly accepted a bribe of Rs 25 lakh from a businessman Gurdev Singh Sidhu, promising to get him on lease a government industrial plot in Pathankot. Apparently, Sodhi didn't deliver on his promise even four years after he allegedly accepted the bribe in two instalments. But Sidhu ostensibly was no ordinary bribe-giver. He had diligently recorded all his cash-for-deal conversations and when he reached the end of his patience, released the damning tape.

Caught unawares, Sodhi first denied ever-knowing Sidhu and then took refuge in the usual "conspiracy-to-tarnish-me" protestations, calling Sidhu a "blackmailer". The allegations, however, hit the bull's-eye when, a day after the scandal broke out, Sodhi hurriedly signed another deal with his tormentor-returning the entire bribe money, through his nephew.

While the charges against Sodhi have left Amarinder embarrassed, it has been lapped up by his detractors, both within and outside the party. Former MP and Congress' stormy petrel Jagmeet Singh Brar was the first to take a potshot at the chief minister's inner circle, sarcastically calling the Sodhi episode an "unfortunate development".

The Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is gearing up to see that the controversy doesn't die too soon. "The scandal has unmasked the corrupt coterie of the chief minister," says sad supremo Parkash Singh Badal, who was a target of the chief minister's anti-graft campaign. Clearly, Amarinder has much to explain before doing what he does the best-giving clean chits to his beleaguered confidants.

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