By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 23 Oct: The CBI has finally registered an FIR against former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat in the sting case of the year 2016. The FIR filed many days after speculation had begun in this respect has been registered under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, which is for criminal conspiracy, a public servant taking or offering gratification in respect of an official act to exercise personal influence. Other respondents in this case include Cabinet Minister Harak Singh Rawat and Umesh Kumar Sharma, the journalist who had conducted the sting operation. The Uttarakhand High Court had last month given its assent to registering of the FIR against Rawat in the sting case. The High Court had given its nod to the CBI to go ahead with its inquiry recently after receiving a CBI report on the preliminary inquiry in a sealed envelope. The Uttarakhand High Court is hearing the sting case, which was filed by the Congress leader urging the court to quash the CBI inquiry against him. This case had been transferred to Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, last month, only after Justice RC Khulbe had recused himself from the case. It may be recalled that Harish Rawat, who had been ousted in 2016 with President’s rule imposed in Uttarakhand, was shown in the sting video allegedly attempting horse-trading and offering to bribe rebel Congress MLAs to win back their support in order to return to power as CM. The Congress Government led by him had to face a surprise crisis following a big rebellion by several party MLAs, including Cabinet Minister Harak Singh Rawat. Rawat has claimed political vendetta behind the case and, on this issue, the Uttarakhand Congress too appears to be on his side, having even staged a protest following the HC’s nod to his prosecution. Incidentally, Umesh Kumar, a controversial journalist who had conducted this sting operation, is currently in the news for another sting operation conducted by him for which the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government even had him arrested. The case against his arrest is now being heard in the Supreme Court. Political observers feel that the shrewd politician that Harish Rawat is, he may be able to garner some sympathy for himself if he is arrested by the CBI. Sources in the CBI, however, claim that the agency is treading very cautiously in the case and it was after a thorough preliminary inquiry that it had sought permission of the High Court to register the FIR against him and go ahead with the full scale inquiry. There is speculation in political circles that the CBI may choose to arrest him following the FIR. It however remains to be seen if at all the CBI prefers to arrest him before conducting a full scale inquiry into the case. Sources close to him indicate that Harish Rawat is trying his best to return to state politics and is aspiring to become CM again if the Congress wins the Assembly elections in the state due in 2022.