New Delhi/Panaji: The Tehelka row Wednesday sparked a fresh bout of sparring with the BJP lashing out at Congress, saying a Union Cabinet Minister is "shielding" Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal, who is accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague, a charge rubbished by Kapil Sibal.
Without naming anyone, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj today tweeted, "Union Cabinet Minister who is the founder and patron of Tehelka is shielding Tarun Tejpal."
With his name doing the rounds, Law Minister Sibal hit back at the BJP and the RSS, accusing them of vilifying his name and said Tejpal was not related to him and he does not have any stake in Tehelka.
Congress and BJP have been involved in a slugfest over the issue. Rejecting Tejpal`s demand that the sexual assault case against him be handed over to CBI, BJP had said he may use this as an "escape route" as he is close to the ruling Congress.
Sibal referred to a message in circulation in the social media which said that Tejpal is the son of Sibal`s real sister and that the Union minister held 80 per cent shares in Tehelka.
"There is a message going around in the social media which says that Tarun Tejpal is the son of a Punjab Congress Committee member and an MLA. I don`t know...
"Then it says his mother is the real sister of Kapil Sibal. Now, I am sorry, I did not expect the RSS and the BJP to stoop to this level. They can attack me politically, but they should not bring my family into it," he told reporters here.
Sibal said he has only one sister, Asha Nanda, who lives in Maharani Bagh here. "I have no other sister," he said.
Rejecting Congress charge of BJP politicising the issue, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said, "the venue(Goa) of the offence is selected by the person (Tejpal) who commits the offence. My party has nothing to do with the venue of the offence."
In Panaji, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar dismissed Congress allegation that he was showing undue interest in and interfering with the probe as Tehelka had exposed BJP wrongdoings.
"I am the administrator of the state. As Chief Minister of the state my job is to ensure justice to the girl...If what she says has legal support to ensure that justice is made out," he told reporters.
Parrikar denied there was any pressure from any quarters on the Goa police investigating the case of the alleged assault by Tejpal on a woman journalist of his office in an elevator in a Goa hotel during a Thinkfest organised by his magazine earlier this month.
As the war of words intensified, Sibal shot back at BJP, saying leaders who are "tangentially talking about me should name me if they have the courage."
"...Because I have been attacking (Narendra) Modi and attacking the BJP, obviously for them this is the only way to spread lie and to vilify my name. And if they have the courage they should name me. These political leaders who are tangentially talking about me should name me if they have the courage," he said.
Referring to claims that he held 80 per cent shares in Tehelka magazine till 2011, he said, "I don`t even have a single share. No share has ever been allotted to me."
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "That Tarun Tejpal makes Goa the place of occurrence of the incident...This advice was not given by the BJP."
He said Tejpal has already admitted to his crime and is now trying to hit out at the girl and point fingers at her character and malign her.
"I do not want to honour Tejpal by answering the questions raised. But, it is like playing with the honour of a girl, who is the victim," he said.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal said that officers are now "scared" to appoint women as their personal assistants after the passage of the bill to prevent sexual harassment of women at workplace.
Though refraining from commenting on the rape case against Tejpal till the probe is completed, he recalled that when the law in favour of women was being brought, he had expressed concern over it.
"I had apprehended that this law may also be misused like the anti-dowry law and may result in a situation in which the women themselves are deprived of justice.
Asked about the charge against Tejpal, Agrawal said that nothing can be said right now as the matter is under investigation of Goa police and hence one has to watch for the legal process to culminate.