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    Posted on 27 April 2012
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    TEHELKA VINDICATED

    Bangaru Laxman convicted for taking bribe

    Kunal Majumder
    New Delhi

    Operation West End: Sting footage screengrab

    UPDATE (April 30, 2012, 4:25PM): Disgraced former BJP President Bangaru Laxman has quit the party. Earlier in the day he resigned from the BJP national executive. After conviction of Laxman by a Delhi court on corruption charges in Tehelka’s sting operation, there has been growing demand from within his party for his removal.

    UPDATE (April 28, 2012, 2:45PM): Former BJP president Bangaru Laxman has been sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment. Coming down heavily on the "sab chalta hai" attitude of the political class, the court fined Laxman Rs 1 lakh the exact amount he was accused of taking as bribe in the Operation West End sting operation. This is also the first time in Indian history that a senior politician has been convicted for corruption based on evidence gathered in a sting operation conducted by a media organisation. Because of the four year sentence, Laxman will not get bail and has to approach a higher court for relief.

    In a strong vindication of Tehelka’s position, former BJP president Bangaru Laxman was on Friday convicted for taking a bribe in the "Operation West End" sting operation, conducted by Tehelka website over an eight-month period in 2000-2001. Laxman has been charged under Prevention of Corruption Act. He has been arrested and will be sentenced tomorrow.

    Operation West End: The Bangaru Laxman Tape


    In 2001 Tehelka’s hidden camera caught Laxman, then president of the ruling BJP, accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh in cash as a kickback for a defence contract. Tehelka reporters Aniruddha Bahal and Mathew Samuel began their undercover operation into defence purchases sometime in August 2000. Tehelka’s Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal explained Operation West End in details in his article Sleaze, Senseless Greed and Dirty Heroes in 2001. “Their (Bahal and Samuel) gameplan was simple and logical. Enter at the lowest level of the food chain—the section officer in defence procurement—and work your way up the ladder of graft. Eight months into the investigation we are still astonished at how incredibly high the ladder goes, and how at every rung there were avaricious men waiting to pull us up as long as there was money to be had for it. Eight months later, as we look at the footage of the sting, we are still astonished at how blinding the greed was that two rank amateurs with close to no knowledge of defence hardware, hawking a patently absurd product, could go so far as to slice open an entire industry of high corruption.”

    Bahal and Samuel approached a cast of characters from both ruling political parties and defence establishment. They set out to sell fictitious hand-held thermal cameras, under the brand name of a fake company West End. At the top of the list was then BJP President Bangaru Laxman, who took a Rs 1 lakh token bribe to facilitate West End’s prospects and waited expectantly for another $30,000. The others exposed through the sting operation included Jaya Jaitley—president of BJP’s ally Samata Party and a host of military officers.

    The witch-hunt that followed this revelation almost drove Tehelka out of business. Investors and employees were driven away as the government of the day found newer ways to harass the organisation. Charges were framed, newer cases invented, and no stone was left unturned in what was one of the worst acts of political victimisation. But Tehelka survived the odds and has continued to do what it originally set out to do 12 years ago: free and fair journalism.

    Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
    kunal@tehelka.com


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    Posted on 27 April 2012
 
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