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Jaya Jaitly accuses Sonia Gandhi of having intervened to shield Tehelka

Former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly has accused the Congress of having a hand in the Tehelka sting 'Operation West End', which led to then Defence Minister George Fernandes' resignation and that when UPA was in power, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked then Finance Minister P. Chidambram to ensure that Tehelka's alleged financiers are not treated in an "unfair" or "unjust" manner.

Jaitly has made these claims in her upcoming autobiography "Life among the Scorpions: Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics", which is due to be released on Tuesday.

NDTV reports citing sources that Jaitly has presented a copy of the letter in the book. It also has a copy of a two-page letter from First Global, the alleged financiers of Tehelka, petitioning Sonia Gandhi, the then Chairperson of National Advisory Council.

In her autobiography, Jaitly also recalls that when George Fernandes insisted on resigning, then Union Ministers LK Advani and Jaswant Singh advised against it. Soon after, Jaswant Singh brought the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's message to the Defence Minister, accepting his resignation.

"George Fernandes was only too eager to oblige," she says. However, Jaitly was miffed that she had also been asked to resign as Samata Party chief by Mr Vajpayee, while she had made her stand clear in her own party that she had done nothing wrong and would not resign.

She also claims that the Congress, which was then in Opposition, was the ultimate beneficiary of the sting by Tehelka, which allegedly received hawala funds.

In the context of her revelations on how defence deals are done in India, Jaitly mentions a meeting with an unnamed senior Congressman where he informed her that people were willing to pay "twenty lakh rupees to have a cup of tea" with her. When she asked him why, he explained that "it cuts the competition".

This, according to the book, was during the first NDA Government and George Fernandes the Defence Minister.