Raipur: A new audio tape containing purported conversations between Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel and Firoz Siddhiqui, a former loyalist of ex-Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, has surfaced, bringing to the fore fissures in the state unit of the party.
In the tape, Baghel could be heard offering a position in the party to Siddhiqui if he agrees to leak to an English newspaper another audio tape containing conversations about "fixing" Antagarh bypoll.
In the new tape, Siddhiqui is heard seeking protection for him and his family from Baghel. Baghel could be heard telling Siddhiqui that "if there is an attack on you, I will protect you. To protect you, I will make you General Secretary (of State Congress)."
Baghel also says he will not give Siddhiqui the party post just now otherwise it would appear he was rewarded for leaking the tapes.
State Congress said there was nothing objectionable in the new tape, while Siddhiqui said he recorded the conversation between him and Baghel on December 9 last year.
Ruling BJP took a dig at Congress, saying the new audio tape has proved that differences existed among the key leaders of the main opposition party. Ajit Jogi claimed the conversations revealed how a conspiracy was hatched against him and his son Amit, who has been expelled from Congress after the first tape surfaced.
In December, an audio tape was released by an English daily containing several phone conversations purportedly between Ajit, his son Amit, Chief Minister Raman Singh's son- in-law Puneet Gupta, Congress candidate Manturam Pawar, Siddhiqui and another Jogi loyalist Ameen Memon related to alleged "fixing" of bypoll to Antagarh assembly seat in 2014.
Pawar, then considered an Ajit loyalist, had withdrawn from the fray just a day ahead of the last date for withdrawal and was later expelled from the party. BJP won the bypoll.
The tape purportedly contained conversation suggesting money exchanged hands. In the wake of a political storm following leak of the audio tape, Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee expelled Amit, an MLA, for six years and recommended action against his father, a member of the Congress Working Committee, the party's top decision-making body.
Baghel has confirmed the new audio tape contains his voice. "There is nothing objectionable in the audio and state party chief Bhupesh Baghel has admitted that the tape contains his voice. He did not lure Siddhiqui with money. He just assured to protect him (Siddhiqui) by making him a General Secretary of the party and there is nothing wrong in that," Chhattisgarh Congress spokesperson Shailesh Trivedi told PTI when asked to comment on surfacing of the fresh tape.