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BJP leadership in a dilemma over Rahul Mahajan episode

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"HE WAS POISONED": BJP leader Gopinath Munde talking to the media about his nephew Rahul Mahajan at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi on Saturday. - PHOTO: PTI
"HE WAS POISONED": BJP leader Gopinath Munde talking to the media about his nephew Rahul Mahajan at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi on Saturday. - PHOTO: PTI

Special Correspondent

Party leaders contradict each other on the line to be adopted; Rahul was poisoned, says Munde

Initial reports suggested that it was a case of liquor and drug overdose Sushma Swaraj described it as a family tragedy unconnected to the party "We cannot say that we have nothing to do with it": BJP spokesperson

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party revealed its dilemma over the Rahul Mahajan episode on Saturday with party leaders appearing to contradict each other on the line to be adopted.

The son of slain BJP leader Pramod Mahajan was admitted to Apollo Hospital here in a critical condition in the early hours of Friday. Mr. Mahajan's personal secretary, Bibek Moitra, who had spent the previous evening with Rahul, was brought dead to the hospital. Initial reports suggested that it was a case of liquor and drug overdose at a party where four others were present.

Speaking to the Press on Saturday after a meeting at the residence of senior leader L.K. Advani, general secretary Sushma Swaraj described it as a family tragedy unconnected to the party. "Why do you want to link everything to the party," she asked. It was a sad moment for the family of the party's late general secretary. The party also dissociated itself from Moitra, who was personal secretary to senior Maharashtra BJP leader Gopinath Munde in Mumbai before moving to Delhi to join Mr. Mahajan's team. Mr. Mahajan's sister is married to Mr. Munde.

Munde's charge

However, within hours of Ms. Swaraj dismissing the matter, fresh controversy erupted with Mr. Munde going on record to allege that Rahul had been poisoned. Quoting the toxicology report released by Apollo Hospital, Mr. Munde held that contrary to media reports, no cocaine or heroin was found in Rahul's urine sample. He said his nephew was the victim of a larger conspiracy aimed at defaming the Mahajan family.

"He seems to have been poisoned." Mr. Munde said though he also claimed that he did not want to "rush matters" that the police "must conduct an impartial inquiry."

By late evening, the BJP had adopted a softer line. Party spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said: "We cannot say that we have nothing to do with it. Rahul Mahajan's father was a BJP leader, while Bibek Moitra was a member of the BJP who was active in its youth wing. What happened is sad and shocking. We regret Mr. Moitra's death and pray for the early recovery of Rahul."

On the circumstances of the tragedy, he said: "It is for the police to investigate all angles, including whether there was a conspiracy behind it."

Mr. Munde's insinuation and the BJP's willingness to explore "the conspiracy angle" come at a time of deep speculation within the party on the circumstances leading to Moitra's death and the younger Mahajan's hospitalisation.

Barely was the twin-tragedy flashed on television than it was unofficially hinted that Pramod Mahajan's son had paid the price for a daring lifestyle that brought his father to ruin. Highly placed sources informally let it be known that Moitra was a known substance user who frequented celebrity parties. Further, they added, Rahul had a predilection for being "unstable". These sources also discounted reports that Rahul was on the verge of being admitted to the party. Said a senior leader: "He wanted to join the BJP but there was never any move from the party."

Rahul's induction

On the other hand, the senior Mahajan's supporters insisted that Rahul's induction was but a formality; it was just a matter of "when and in what position". They pointed out that at the recent national executive of the party in New Delhi, Rahul was introduced to top BJP leaders. "Rajnathji is on record that he wanted him to work for the party," said a party functionary, who also felt that "it was way too much of a coincidence" that within a month of Mr. Mahajan's murder his secretary should be dead and his son admitted to hospital in a critical condition. "If this was a lifestyle affliction, why did this happen only now? And why were only two people affected when there were six people on the scene?"

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