The BJP on Friday came out in full-throated defence of Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, who was charged in Ahmedabad by the CBI with being part of the criminal conspiracy to liquidate Kausarbi, wife of fake encounter victim Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

Party's top leaders L.K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley on Thursday night decided to decline Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation for lunch, which they had accepted earlier. “Mr. Advani telephoned Pranab Mukherjee [Finance Minister] to inform him of our decision not to attend the lunch, and we also sent word to the Prime Minister's Office,” Ms. Swaraj said adding: “We could not be lunching with the Prime Minister while the government was misusing the CBI against Amit Shah. It would not have been appropriate.”

The Gujarat happenings made the party's top leadership meet twice in the past 24 hours at Mr. Advani's residence — on Thursday evening and Friday morning. It is learnt that the decision to defend Mr. Shah came after “clearance” from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his insistence that the party take up the matter politically. It was then decided to address the press to denounce the CBI and pronounce Mr. Shah's “innocent.”

Separately, a senior party functionary, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted that Mr. Shah's continuance as Minister had become untenable. “He will have to resign. His continuation in office has become untenable,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Jaitley said: “The facts are concocted and false.”

Mr. Jaitley said, “The strategy of the UPA was to allow a media trial of Amit Shah, feed the people with half-truths through the media, create a prejudicial environment, use this to further its vote-bank politics [among Muslims] and break up the Opposition unity on the price rise and other issues.”

Asked which facts were distorted as the Gujarat government had admitted in the Supreme Court to the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausarbi and friend Tulsi Prajapati, he said: “Today's press conference is not about those three encounter deaths/ killings.” The “facts of Amit Shah's involvement are concocted,” he alleged.

He “regretted” and “condemned” the recent killing of an RTI activist in Gujarat, allegedly by a BJP legislator, saying “whoever is guilty must be taken to task.”

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