Top BJP leadership on Friday in New Delhi refused to lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, angered by CBI summons to a Gujarat Minister regarded as very close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Hours before the lunch to be hosted by Singh for party president Nitin Gadkari, senior leader L K Advani and Leaders of Opposition in both Houses of Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the party called it off.
Advani, who was to go along with the other three for the lunch ahead of the Parliament session beginning Monday, called Leader of House in Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee and expressed his inability to attend the lunch. Later the PMO was also intimated.
The four leaders, who had accepted the lunch invitation, met last evening and decided that they would not honour it since the "environment was not cordial", Swaraj told a press conference today after a meeting of leaders at Advani's residence.
The atmosphere had become so vitiated that it would not appear well to go and have lunch with him, she said.
Swaraj and Jaitley lashed out at the government accusing it of "unashamedly misusing" CBI for political purposes. They said the entire investigation in the Sohrabuddin encounter killing case, in which Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah has been summoned, was "motivated with a political agenda in mind and was concocted".
Swaraj said the top leadership at its meeting yesterday felt this was a "fresh case" of government misusing the CBI and it would not be "appropriate and proper" if they attended the lunch.
"In this vitiated atmosphere it would not be proper to attend the lunch meeting," Swaraj said.
In reply to a question, she said BJP was keen on having a dialogue with the government on important issues but this particular case was different.
"You see the timing (of the lunch meeting). Can we be having lunch while our Home Minister is being grilled by the CBI," she said, adding that initially BJP had accepted the invitation as it wanted to "reciprocate" the government's initiative for a discussion ahead of the Parliament session.
She alleged that the government had "formed three categories" under which the CBI is "misused" for political gains.
Swaraj said government had misused CBI to protect its "own people" like Ottavio Quattrochi, Jagdish Tytler and Satish Sharma, targeting opposition leaders like Advani, M M Joshi, Modi and Shah, and as a Damocles' Sword against leaders facing disproportionate assets cases to win their vote in Parliament.
The Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha informed that Advani had even called up Mukherjee to state that CBI was "again" being misused in Gujarat by summoning Shah and asked him to "stop it if you can".
Her counterpart in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley remarked that government had "decided to misuse CBI unashamedly".
"We believe the CBI is preparing a political agenda on baseless facts and the government has a clear strategy to do a media trial, give half-truths, create a prejudicial environment and use it for vote bank politics," Jaitley said.
He alleged that this was also being done to save the government from opposition attacks in Parliament by diverting attention from price rise, Indo-Pak talks, misadventure in Warren Anderson case and other issues.
The facts are concocted and false. The agency is behaving like an extended arm of the ruling party. The timing has been chosen for political convenience of the Congress party," Jaitley said.
He sought to know what kind of precedence the government was setting by misusing the CBI in this manner.
"In an alleged encounter, a Maoist and another gentleman were killed. Are they going to prosecute a Home Minister?" he asked.
BJP maintained that it never did such "politics" in Gujarat where it has been in power for nearly two decades.
"We are firmly of the view that this case is politically motivated and fabricated... The track record of CBI does not inspire confidence," Jaitley said.
The eminent lawyer asserted that Shah was entitled to his rights and legal remedies.
Jaitley accused the government of misusing CBI to win support of some political parties in Parliament and mentioned the case of SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati.
He said SP voted in favour of the nuclear deal and BSP supported the cut motion after CBI changed its stance on the disproportionate assets cases against Yadav and Mayawati.
Jaitley alleged that CBI had put the 2G Spectrum allocation case in "cold storage" as its investigation can put UPA ministers "in the dock". PTI