NEW DELHI: A political fight broke out on Friday over pages of an alleged diary that purportedly referred to huge payments to BJP leaders by B S Yeddyurappa, a charge denied by the former Karnataka chief minister and the party while Congress claimed the revelation was being suppressed by the authorities.

The publication of the loose pages by a magazine led to fresh trading of charges over the sheets which were handed over by Karnataka Congress leader D K Shivakumar to the income tax authorities during a raid on his residence. He told the I-T team the pages were given to him and did not authenticate the photocopies.

Congress accused the government of covering up the “payoffs” written down in the pages that listed all top BJP leaders, including PM Narendra Modi, as beneficiaries. The leaders named included Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and the alleged payoffs were in hundreds of crores.

“I-T officials have already probed the issue and found the documents, signatures and handwritten notes forged,” Yeddyurappa said in a statement.

The leader, according to a Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) statement, told authorities that he was not in the habit of writing diaries and denied the signatures.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Congress was relying on forgeries given by a man trying to protect himself.

The magazine report said the I-T department had been sitting on these sheets and Jaitley refused permission to investigate the claims.

Interestingly, the pages bore the alleged signature of Yeddyurappa along with comments such as the Bellary Reddys allegedly promising to make Yeddyurappa CM. The pages reportedly named several Karnataka MLAs who were allegedly given money.

The CBDT issued a statement that a forensic examination required originals which were not available and added that details of the place and custody of the originals were not known. “The same loose sheets appear to be of a doubtful nature and were given by the person who was being raided for tax violations,” it said.

The CBDT also said Shivakumar told them he did not know the time period of the alleged transactions and was not able to vouch for the genuineness of the papers which was why he did not register a complaint with the anti-corruption bureau or the state lokayukta.

The report on the papers claimed that an official note recorded that the allegations were not investigated and allegedly stated that Shivakumar was being blackmailed to break from Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress leader was raided in August 2017. The report claimed the handwritten entries were on pages for dates January 17 and 18 in a 2009 Karnataka legislators’ diary.

Prasad said Congress was using lies and falsehoods to attack the government. He said when the Central Forensic Science Laboratory asked for original papers to authenticate signatures, they could not be provided. “Shivakumar said he had no original copies (sic). They don’t have original documents and he handed over a forged paper to save himself,” Prasad said.

Congress demanded an investigation by the Lokpal while alleging that the Centre had refused a request for probe by the I-T department. Calling it a “smoking gun” on the alleged corruption of the BJP brass, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, “Prima facie, this is a case for investigating all BJP leaders, right from the PM downwards. It is a fit case to be investigated by the newly appointed Lokpal.”

Surjewala said the payoffs totalled Rs 2,690 crore, of which Rs 1,800 crore was listed as payments to various BJP leaders. “If there is no truth in this diary, why isn’t Narendra Modi ready for an investigation?” Surjewala asked.

The spokesperson quoted the report to say Rs 1,000 crore was paid to BJP’s “central committee” and other amounts to senior party leaders “who run the government”. “It proves ‘chowkidar chor hai’,” Surjewala said.

BJP dismissed the charges with Prasad saying, “This is a Congress pattern. Remember the judge Loya case? An article is carried, a petition filed, the judiciary involved. Then the Supreme Court dismisses it. This episode is similar. Congress is afraid of its imminent defeat in the 2019 elections. Congress, with many top leaders out on bail and suffering many court proceedings, has now resorted to spreading a web of lies and falsehood.”

Reacting to the allegations, BJP president Amit Shah tweeted, “After all the fake issues have collapsed, the desperate are now relying on forgery. The Congress campaign is in shambles. Now even forgery can’t save them.”

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