Madhya Pradesh polls: Why the govt's deafening silence on Tomar tapes?
The Union government’s silence on an Indian-origin Canadian citizen making incriminating statements about union minister Narendra Singh Tomar remains unbroken
Jagmandeep Singh, a Canadian citizen of Indian origin, has told a digital media outlet that the video clips featuring himself and the son of Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar circulating on social media happen to be genuine, but date back to 2020-21. He also claimed that he had not recorded or released the clips, and has no knowledge of who could have done it.
On 6 November, the minister’s son Devendra Pratap Singh Tomar had sought a police investigation into the "doctored video clips". Though he did not deny that he featured in them, his complaint was that the clips had been doctored and edited to give a misleading picture to defame him and his father. Ten days after the FIR was lodged, there is no word yet on the investigation, if any.
Curiously, neither Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shiv Raj Singh Chouhan, believed to be close to Tomar senior who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Morena, nor Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia have issued a statement yet on the controversy.
While BJP leaders have tried to dismiss the clips as "poll-related dirty tricks", they are unwilling to go on record. Perhaps they feel that ignoring the controversy and maintaining silence on it is best under the circumstances.
The Canadian citizen released a video statement on 14 November alleging that he and the minister’s son were collaborating on a business deal and that Devendra Pratap was keen to invest in marijuana cultivation in Canada.
However, it is unclear why he made incriminating statements that the deal was worth a staggering Rs 10,000 crore and that BJP MP Manjinder Singh Sirsa handled the payments in cash made through gurudwaras. Devendra Pratap has denied having received any money in his or his family’s bank accounts.
Jagmandeep Singh claimed that the first two video clips date back to 2020 and 2021, when he was first introduced to Devendra Pratap. He had got stranded in Delhi because of the Covid-19 lockdown, he claimed, and had lived in one of Devendra Pratap's flats in the city. He also claimed that he had bought 100 acres of land in New Brunswick in Canada on behalf of Tomar junior.
While the Congress, enagaged in a fierce electoral contest with the BJP in the state, has demanded a high-level inquiry, the Union government has maintained a studied silence. Union home minister Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi, both vocal about Opposition ‘corruption’, have chosen to be silent.
“PM Modi will never send ED, CBI or the Income Tax department for an inquiry," taunted Rahul Gandhi in his election rallies, while Congress national spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told media that the matter had “advanced far beyond Narendra Singh Tomar”.
“What is the Union government waiting for?” Shrinate asked. “Here is a man who is revealing himself on video and saying that he is willing to give evidence of Devendra Tomar’s connection with money laundering and involvement with a drug cartel. The Narcotics Control Bureau, the ED and CBI should have taken cognizance.”
Embarrassed by the controversy, Tomar senior issued a statement on X to say, "A fake video related to my son has gone viral on social media. This is part of a well-planned conspiracy being carried out by the Opposition at the time of elections with the aim of misleading the public," while demanding a forensic examination. He too, however, did not deny acquaintance with the Canadian citizen.
Jagmandeep Singh claimed that he shared close ties with the minister and his family. "Not just Tomar, I have business dealings with three other BJP leaders," he told the media platform, and claimed he had videos, photographs and chats to back up his claims.
What are his credentials, though? Why is he speaking up now before the assembly elections? Is the business deal still on or have the allies fallen out? With the Tomars, BJP and the police staying tight-lipped, the answers will possibly have to wait until after the elections.