BJP demands CBI probe into horse-trading

Bhubaneswar: The controversy over alleged horse-trading during last year`s Rajya Sabha polls further thickened on Tuesday with release of another audio tape by a television channel and the Congress suspending one of its MLAs on charge of defying party whip.

According to contents of the second audio tape, Congress and BJP supported Independent candidate Tara Ranjan Patnaik allegedly made a deal with some BJP MLAs to secure their support.

While BJP`s senior MLA and former minister Jaynarayan Mishra, one of accused, refuted the allegation, Patnaik was not immediately available for comment.

"I am in no way involved in any deal," Mishra told mediamen dubbing the entire episode as "false" and "baseless".

Daring a CBI probe into the incident, Mishra claimed that the new audio tape was prepared to counter the first tape, released about a week ago, where two BJD ministers were accused of making a deal with Congress MLA Shibaji Majhi.

Refuting allegations against his party MLAs, BJP state president Jual Oram challenged Chief minister Naveen Patnaik to order a CBI probe into the matter.

Another BJP MLA Hitesh Bagarti, who as per the second tape, made deal with independent candidate, said: "It is a conspiracy against me. If proved, I will quit politics".

Meanwhile, a year after Rajya Sabha polls, Congress today suspended Lanjigarh MLA Shibaji Majhi from the party.

The action came within a week of release of an audio tape by a news channel which claimed that two BJD ministers had negotiated with Majhi to abstain from voting in RS polls.

Majhi was among the three MLAs, two others being Congress`s Gregory Minz and Bhimsen Choudhury of BJP, who did not vote in RS polls. With their abstention, ruling BJD`s third candidate easily won the polls.

While the BJP had already suspended Choudhury on charge of facilitating the BJD candidate`s victory in the polls, Congress could not take any action due to lack of sufficient evidence against its two MLAs.

During the RS elections, Congress had issued a three-line whip asking its MLAs to vote for independent candidate Tara Ranjan Patnaik. However, party MLAs Majhi and Minz abstained from voting.

"The party took action against Majhi after getting evidence against him," a statement issued by the PCC said.

Meanwhile, PCC chief spokesman Kailash Acharya said that the party was contemplating "appropriate" action against Minz too.

The party was yet to take action against Minz who too abstained from voting in the RS polls.

Claiming innocence, Majhi had said that he could not vote in the RS polls due to illness. "I was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai and later shifted to another hospital in the city," Majhi said claiming that there was no malafide intention behind remaining absent on the voting day.

Earlier, the party had demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister and two ministers for allegedly indulging in horse-trading in the polls last year.