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New Delhi, July 23, 2010
Four top leaders of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today stayed away from a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in protest against the summons issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.
The decision to skip the lunch was taken at a meeting of BJP leaders at former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani this morning.
Mr Advani, BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had been invited for the customary lunch hosted by the Prime Minister for leaders of political parties on the eve of a Parliament session.
Announcing the decision at a press conference, Ms Swaraj and Mr Jaitley said the "atmosphere was not conducive" and it would have not been possible for the BJP leadership to attend a lunch with the Prime Minister at a time when the CBI had targeted Mr Shah.
Mr Shah is considered to be a close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, one of the BJP's most prominent leaders.
Ms Swaraj and Mr Jaitley accused the Government of misusing the CBI for political purposes and said the case against Mr Shah was fabricated with a political agenda in mind.
"The facts are concocted and false. The agency is behaving like an extended arm of the ruling party. The timing has been chosen for the political convenience of the Congress party," Mr. Jaitley said. He also said the agency was used to protect the ruling party's friends and harass its political opponents.
The BJP decision came in for a sharp attack from the Congress which described it as an attempt to subvert the investigations in the Sohrabuddin case and pointed out that the CBI was probing the case at the behest of the Supreme Court and not the Central Government.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the BJP leadership was scared and was trying to create an arc of immunity for Mr Shah, who has since been chargesheeted by the CBI in the case.
According to him, the BJP was worried because the CBI was nearing the end of its investigation in the case and had appeared to have zeroed in on Mr Shah, who is close to Mr Modi.
"It has obviously sent shivers down the collective spine of the BJP leadership. The press conference by the party leaders today is a blatant attempt to pressurise investigations and investigators. It is a crude attempt to create an arc of immunity for Shah," Mr Singhvi added.