What Suhail Hindustani told cash-for-votes panel

The following is the English translation of the affidavit filed in Hindi by Suhail Ahmed, alias Suhail Hindustani, alias Raja Hindustani, the alleged go-between in the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked Parliament on July 22 on how the sting operation unfolded. (The translated version was emailed by Sudheendra Kulkarni to media organisations.)

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12 August 2008

To
The Honourable Speaker
Lok Sabha
New Delhi

Subject: Witness statement in the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal in Parliament on July 22, 2008 involving Shri Amar Singhji, General Secretary of the Samajwadi Party, Shri Ahmed Patelji, Political Secretary to the Congress President, and Shri Reoti Raman Singhji, MP and Samajwadi Party leader

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Honourable Sir,

I am submitting this statement to your Honourable Self as a witness in the recent “Cash-for-Votes” scandal that rocked Parliament on July 22, 2008. All the information contained in this statement is based on Truth, and nothing but Truth, and I say this by invoking the name of Allah or God Almighty. My life is in threat, but I am ready to sacrifice my life for the Truth contained in this statement. My only wish is that my body may be buried near the Jama Masjid adjoining Parliament.

Let me introduce myself as a devoted Muslim and a patriotic Indian. My original name was Suhail Ahmed, which I later changed to Suhail Hindustani. I am a small-scale trader of gems and jewelry. I had a shop (Bobby Emporium, Shop No.6) in the shopping arcade of Janpath Hotel in New Delhi, which was closed down in April 2008. I hail from Jaipur. My parents and other members of my family live in Jaipur.

For the past nearly 15 years, I am also active as an ordinary social and political worker of the BJP. For many years I was a karyakarta in the BJP’s Yuva Morcha and have worked closely with Shri Shahnawaz Hussainji, MP, when he was a minister in Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji’s Government. My family in Rajasthan has a long association with the BJP and the Jana Sangh. My grandfather was indeed known as Shri Sageer Mian Janasanghi Peeli Topiwale, who worked in Tonk and Ajmer Sherif.

I have lived most of my life in Delhi in the official residence of some MP or the other. Besides my business, I do small errands and liaisoning work for MPs belonging to various parties. This, combined with the fact that I move around mostly in North Avenue and South Avenue, has enabled me to develop close acquaintances with people in various political parties and also with some in business circles. As a result, I have acquired good ground-level knowledge of the political developments in the corridors of power.

In early July, after the communist parties withdrew support to the UPA Government, the “market” (as the place for political wheeling-dealings is called) was abuzz with talk that opposition MPs would be offered huge amounts as bribes to either vote for the Government or abstain from voting. Some of the middlemen contacted me to find out if I knew any “plots” (codeword for MPs willing to cross-over for a consideration). I would ask them how much “paper” (codeword for the bribe amount) was on offer. Their reply — namely, that the amount was in the neighbourhood of Rs 20-25 crore — took me by surprise.

I had been closely following the debate on the nuclear deal. From what I understood of the issue, I came to the conclusion that it was not in India’s interests and that it was a sell-out to America. In particular, I was well aware of the strongly critical sentiments about the nuclear deal, and about the US President George Bush, that prevailed in my (Muslim) community. I was therefore angry that, in its bid to go ahead with the nuclear deal, the UPA Government was indulging in horse-trading in order to save itself in the trust vote.

Around this time, I came to know from the “market” that a large number (over 15) of BJP and NDA MPs were being targeted by Shri Ahmed Patelji, Shri Amar Singhji and other leaders of the Congress and Samajwadi Party. I felt that the victory of Dr Manmohan Singhji’s Government through defections from the BJP was neither good for the country nor good for the Party I support.

On July 17, I left for Bangalore by an Air Deccan flight for three days on some personal work. I returned to Delhi on July 20 by a morning Air Deccan flight and booked a room (no. 307) in the India Islamic Centre to conduct my operations from there. I contacted Shri S.P. Guptaji, an IAS officer of Haryana cadre who works closely with Shri Bhupinder Singh Hoodaji, Chief Minister of Haryana. He is the chief administrator of the Housing Board of Haryana. He was with me for over an hour at the coffee shop of the India Islamic Centre. He took the list of MPs from me and said, “I don’t want any money in this deal. But if your list of MPs is pucca, I will take you to meet Shri Hoodaji and Shri Ahmed Patelji, who will discuss the deal with you.”

While I was at the India Islamic Centre, a mushaira was being organised in the evening at the Centre’s auditorium. I met Shri Uday Pratap Singhji, a Samajwadi Party MP, (also known as ‘Guruji’, since he is known as the Guru of Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav) outside the auditorium. I have great regard for him as an elderly politician who is wise and experienced. I told him that I had a list of opposition MPs who could be approached to support the Government, and added, “Mera kuchh kaam kar do, Guruji,” (Guruji, please do me a favour.) When I gave him the list, he told me that this work was being handled by Shri Amar Singhji and that I should contact him through Shri Reoti Raman Singhji. Shri Uday Pratap Singhji took my number and said that Shri Reoti Raman Singhji would call me on my mobile.

It was at this time that I decided to do something big in life to expose the scandal of bribing MPs by pretending to act as a middleman.

On July 21, at around 11.30 am, I phoned Shri Sudheendra Kulkarniji, a senior BJP activist who was OSD in the PMO when Shri Vajpayeeji was the Prime Minister. (His mobile number is 9810*****2). I have considerable respect for him due to my acquaintance with him when he used to live in the party full-timers’ rooms in the BJP headquarters at 11 Ashoka Road. He now works with Shri Advaniji. Therefore, I felt that he was the right person for me to convey the message that over a dozen BJP MPs were being approached by Congress-SP leaders.

Shri Kulkarniji took the names of BJP MPs from me and called me back in an hour’s time to say that he wanted me to meet him as soon as possible.

In the afternoon, at around 1.30 pm, Shri Guptaji phoned me and asked me to meet him at Claridges Hotel. He promised to arrange my meeting with Shri Ahmed Patelji. As we were having soup in the restaurant, two persons came to meet us — Shri Lovely Singh (son of Shri Buta Singhji, former Home minister and Governor of Bihar) and Shri Aman Arora, who was introduced as Shri Lovely Singh’s friend. They came in a black-coloured Honda CRB car. They asked me about the list of “Plots” (MPs) I had and questioned me about my contacts in the BJP. Shri Guptaji prepared the list as per the names mentioned by me. Soon thereafter, Shri Lovely Singh put a call through to Shri Ahmed Patelji from his mobile and gave it to me to speak to him. Shri Patelji asked me to come to his house at 23 Willingdon Crescent at 7.30 pm along with my “Plots”. When I asked Shri Lovely Singh and Shri Aman Arora about their mobile number, both of them gave, strangely, the same number: 989******0.

Thereafter, I met Shri Kulkarniji and I gave him all the information I had. After posing many searching questions to me, he asked me, “What is your motive in giving this information to me?” Since I am from Rajasthan, I said, “I want to be Maharana Pratap, and not Mansingh. Raja Mansingh accepted the Mughal rule and, therefore, very few people in Rajasthan honour him today. In contrast, Maharana Pratap wandered in jungles, slept on the floor and ate rotis made of grass but did not surrender his self-respect before the Mughals. Therefore, tens of thousands of people gather every year to pay homage to him on his birth anniversary. I have seen this contrast with my own eyes.”

I told Shri Kulkarniji that I recalled these contrasting images when I was faced with two diametrically opposite options: either to pocket a few crore rupees by betraying the country and acting as a dalal in the horse-trading of MPs, or to show courage and earn the blessings of Allah.”

My words increased the trust and confidence that Shri Kulkarniji had developed in me. He then asked me if I would facilitate the whistle-blowing operation by a few BJP MPs to expose the bribery scandal. I readily and enthusiastically agreed. He asked me, “Aap ki pahunch kahan tak hai?” (How high-level are your contacts?). I offered to take the MPs to Shri Ahmed Patelji and Shri Amar Singhji. I told him that I had come to know from my contacts in the “market” that both were active in settling deals with non-UPA MPs willing to defy their respective party whips and support the Government.

Late in the afternoon of July 21, Shri Kulkarniji introduced me to three BJP Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) — Shri Ashok Argalji, Shri Mahavir Baghoraji and Shri Faggan Singh Kulasteji. Shri Kulkarni also told me that a team from CNN-IBN was coming soon to work closely with the three MPs, record their whistle-blowing operation and telecast it.

My contacts in the Congress and SP circles were excited when I told them that three BJP MPs were willing to cross over. As mentioned earlier, Shri Lovely Singh had arranged my meeting with Shri Ahmed Patelji at 7.30 pm at the latter residence on Willingdon Crescent. Since the CNN-IBN team had not yet arrived, I requested for the meeting to be rescheduled. I was then informed that I could bring the MPs to meet Shri Ahmed Patelji to Le Meridien Hotel.

The CNN-IBN team, comprising Shri Siddharth Gautam, reporter, and Shri Sudesh, cameraman, arrived at Shri Kulkarniji’s residence at around 10.00 pm. They fitted hidden cameras behind the shirts worn by Shri Kulasteji and Shri Baghoraji, after which I took them to Meridien Hotel at around 11.00 pm. All three of us were driving in Shri Kulasteji’s vehicle bearing the MP’s label.  Shri Argalji stayed behind at Shri Kulkarniji’s residence.

Upon reaching the hotel, Shri Lovely Singh told me that Shri Ahmed Patelji had left about 10 minutes earlier after having waited for the BJP MPs for quite some time. There were many Congress leaders in the lobby of the Hotel and the atmosphere was that of a ‘Ghodon ki Mandi’ (horses’ market). I am constrained to state here that, in CNN-IBN’s August 11 telecast of its sting operation on the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal, the channel hid the information from its viewers that the visit to Meridien Hotel was to meet Shri Ahmed Patelji. The channel also showed no clips of the Congress leaders whom the two BJP MPs and I met in the hotel lobby.

From Meridien, we drove back to the residence of Shri Ashok Argalji at 4 Ferozshah Road.  Apart from Shri Argalji and Shri Kulkarniji, I met two other persons from CNN-IBN there. One was Shri Saif Kidwai, who introduced himself as a producer, and a colleague of his whose name I do not know. Shri Siddharth Gautam of CNN-IBN told us that instead of going out to meet anybody with hidden cameras, it was better to invite the person to a safe room since the quality of recording would be much better. Accordingly, his team fitted cameras behind curtains in the drawing room in Shri Argalji’s house, and a listening device in an adjoining room.

After our failure to meet Shri Ahmed Patelji, I focused my efforts on meeting Shri Amar Singhji. When I contacted Shri Reoti Raman Singhji at his residence (telephone no: 2378 2233) from my mobile (no. 999******0), he agreed to meet the three BJP MPs at Shri Argalji’s house. Shri Reoti Raman Singhji came at around 12.30. I introduced him to the three MPs. He told them that their interests would be taken care of if they agreed to support the Government. The MPs asked him how much they would be paid. He replied that the amount would be decided by Shri Amar Singhji and promised to take them to meet the SP leader. This entire meeting and conversation has been recorded by the CNN-IBN team on their hidden cameras.

During this meeting, I was partly inside Shri Argalji’s drawing room and partly in the adjoining room where Shri Siddharth Gautam, Shri  Saif Kidwai, Shri Sudesh and the fourth member from the CNN-IBN team were listening to the conversation in the drawing room. Shri Kulkarniji was also present in the adjoining room.

Since it was late in the night, the MPs refused to go to Shri Amar Singhji’s house. However, Shri Reoti Raman Singhji phoned me the next morning, on July 22, and said that Shri Amar Singhji was waiting for the MPs at his residence (27 Lodhi Estate). Accordingly, I accompanied two MPs—Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji—to Shri Amar Singhji’s residence. I was wearing green half-trousers and a white t-shirt. Shri Baghoraji stayed behind at 4 Ferozshah Road. This was around 10 am.

We drove in a white Maruti Zen (DL 5CC 7218). My friend Hashmat Ali was driving the car. I was sitting on the front seat next to the driver’s. Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji were sitting on the back seats. Shri Sidharth Gautam told us that he would travel ahead of us in a CNN-IBN car and capture on his camera our entry into, and exit out of, Shri Amar Singhji’s house.

Shri Amar Singhji welcomed the three of us warmly and treated us to dates and dry grapes. He was wearing white pyjama and a kurta of sky-blue colour. Thanking me for bringing the two MPs to meet him, he claimed that he had already “managed” the support of 275-285 MPs to ensure the survival of the UPA Government. Nevertheless, since Shri Reoti Raman Singhji had arranged the meeting, he would pay Rs. 3 crore to each MP if they abstained from the trust vote. At this point, Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji mentioned to him that they had one more BJP MP willing to abstain. Shri Amar Singhji told them that he would pay the same amount to Shri Baghoraji.

After this, Shri Amar Singhji spoke to somebody and informed that person that three more BJP MPs had agreed to abstain from voting. Once the conversation was over, he told us, “Aap ke baare mein main ne PM ko bata diya hai.” (I have informed the PM about you.) He then phoned Shri Ahmed Patelji from his mobile and said, “I have three more Kamals (Lotuses) here.” He made the two MPs speak to Shri Ahmed Patelji. From the conversation I could make out that Shri Amar Singhji and Shri Ahmed Patelji were working in a coordinated manner.

Shri Amar Singhji offered to pay the MPs a token amount of Rs. one crore and asked them to carry it with them. Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji said, “Hum nahin le jayenge. Bahar mediawalen khade hain.” (We won’t take it with us since mediapersons are standing outside your house.) Shri Amar Singhji then promised to send the amount with his assistant, Shri Sanjeev Saxena, within 10-15 minutes. The remaining amount of Rs. 8 crore, he assured them, would be paid to them after the trust vote.

As we were coming out of his drawing room, I told Shri Amar Singhji, “Thakur Sahab, aap Thakur ho kar Marwadi ki tarah baat karte ho. Teen karod to bahut kum rakam hain.” (Thakur Sahab, being a Thakur you are talking like a Marwadi. Three crores is too small an amount.) He smiled at me and said, “Aap der se aaye. Raat ko MPs ko le aate to Ahmedbhai bhi yahin pe the.” (You came late. If you had brought the MPs last night, Ahmed Patel was also here and they would have met him.” I then asked him, “Thakur Sahab, mera kya hoga?” (What about my share?) He said, “Aap ka saamaan hum ne Golf Course mein rakha hai. Vahan jaa ke utha lena.” (Your amount is kept at Golf Course. Pick it up from there.)

While entering Shri Amar Singh’s house, I had seen Shri Siddharth Gautam and his colleague Shri Saif Kidwai. Also present were reporters and cameramen from several other TV channels. While I was inside Shri Amar Singhji’s drawing room, Shri Siddharth Gautam (his mobile no. is 989******1) phoned me on my mobile (999******0) and said, “Please tell me what time you are leaving Shri Amar Singh’s house, so that I’ll be ready to shoot your car coming out of the house. I want to tell you that a lot of other mediapersons are also standing here.” This can be checked from my mobile call records and those of Shri Siddharth Gautam. We left Shri Amar Singh’s house at 10.48 am.

We left Shri Amar Singhji’s house to return to Shri Argal’s house at around 10.30 am. Within 15 minutes, his assistant Shri Sanjeev Saxena, accompanied by a well-built person, arrived at 4 Ferozshah Road in a white Gypsy car no. DL-3C-S-8562. The number was noted by a member of Shri Argalji’s staff. Before ushering Shri Saxena and his colleague (who was carrying two pistols hidden behind his clothes) into the drawing room, I told him, “Meri Shri Amar Singhji se baat karao, yeh maal bahut kum hai. Hum is par sauda nahin karenge.” (Make me speak to Shri Amar Singhji, because this amount is too small. We’ll not do not do the deal at this rate.”) Shri Saxena put the call through to Shri Amar Singhji, who told me that he would double the rate to Rs 6 crore per MP. “If this is acceptable, the deal is on. Otherwise, I’ll ask my man to return immediately.”

I replied that the deal was acceptable. However, I did not have the time to communicate this part of the conversation with Shri Amar Singhji (about the rate being hiked from Rs. 3 crore to Rs. 6 crore) to the three MPs (who were inside the drawing room) as the next stage of the operation took place swiftly.

I then ushered Shri Saxena and his colleague into the drawing room in Shri Argal’s house, which had already been bugged by the CNN-IBN team with hidden cameras. His colleague was wearing a yellow-coloured shirt with long sleeves. I had seen this person, who looked like a security guard, at Shri Amar Singh’s house. He was carrying a small revolver hidden beneath his shirt. Shri Saxena had carried the money in a dark green bag and removed ten bundles of Rs. 10 lakhs each, most of it in currency notes of Rs. 1000, and placed them on a table.

After this, Shri Argalji introduced Shri Baghoraji to Shri Saxena as the third MP. Shri Baghoraji wanted to speak to Shri Amar Singhji for direct confirmation of the remaining amount to be paid. Shri Saxena tried to connect Shri Amar Singhji’s telephone number, which was repeatedly coming engaged. Finally, he got all three MPs to speak to Shri Amar Singhji. After this, I asked Shri Saxena for his mobile number, saying that I would like to remain in touch with him in future for any “chhota-mota kaam”. The number that Shri Saxena gave me was 981******9. The CNN-IBN team has recorded these happenings on its hidden cameras.

After Shri Sanjeev Saxena left Shri Argal’s house, the CNN-IBN team filmed the serial numbers of the first and the last currency notes in the ten bundles. Shri Siddharth Gautam then interviewed with his regular camera the three MPs in the drawing room, with the amount of Rs. 1 crore displayed on the table. Shri Kulkarniji and I were not in the room when the interview was being conducted. But we watched it by standing outside near the door.

Thereafter, the three MPs packed the amount in two separate bags and left for Parliament. By this time, mediapersons had already started to arrive at Shri Argalji’s house. I, therefore, quietly sneaked out of the house, took a local bus to Dhaula Kuan, from where I boarded another bus at 2.30 pm to go to Jaipur. I arrived in Jaipur at around 7.30 pm.

I watched TV at around 8.00 pm and learnt that the Government had won the trust vote by securing 275 votes in its favour with 256 votes against and 10 abstentions. I was deeply disappointed. I switched to CNN-IBN to see if it was showing the tape of the sting operation. Although the channel was showing (indeed, all other channels were showing) the three MPs displaying the notes inside Parliament, there was no sign of the sting tape. I asked some people if the channel had shown the tape earlier. They had no knowledge of it. My disappointment and anger knew no bounds. I felt that the channel had betrayed the trust of the three MPs as well as the trust of all those who had facilitated the exposure of this bribery scandal.

All the information in this statement is true and factual. I am ready to be cross-examined by your Honourable Self or by the members of the inquiry committee appointed by you.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Suhail Hindustani

213 A, MS Flats Quarters
Opposite R.M.L. Hospital
Baba Kharak Singh Marg
New Delhi – 1100 001

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Also read: Was CNN-IBN right not to air Amar Singh sting?

CNN-IBN clarifies on role in cash-for-votes sting

Arun Jaitley: Channel tunnel vision

Sudheendra Kulkarni: What I told the cash-for-votes scam probe panel