Just as the Bharatiya Janata Party was putting the Tehelka expose behind it, another of its functionaries has been caught accepting money on a video tape.
Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Dilip Singh Judeo on Sunday vehemently denied accusations of taking a bribe from an Australian company for mining rights in Chhattisgarh.
Addressing a press conference in Raipur, he also rejected the demand for his resignation from the Vajpayee government in the wake of the allegation.
Judeo is one of the Bharatiya Janata Party's chief ministerial aspirants in Chhattisgarh.
The Union minister alleged that a fortnight before assembly elections in the state, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and Christian missionaries had entered into a conspiracy to demolish him with the help of modern technology.
"If Jogi can level allegations against the prime minister, can't he do so against me? He will be given a befitting reply."
"It is totally wrong (to say) that I have been given money," Judeo told reporters at the state BJP headquarters in Raipur. "I shall not resign. Why should I when I am not involved and also I have never met the person who contacted me as per media reports?"
He said no project proposal from Australia was pending with his ministry and threatened to file a defamation suit against those behind the story.
He claimed this was not the end of his political career. "Rather it is a leap forward and I will now demand that the land of the tribals in the possession of Christian missionaries be returned to them and an end to conversions."
The BJP described the Indian Express report as "fabricated and conspiracy".
"As we see it, the Congress has done this. Facing imminent defeat in the coming assembly elections in four states, it has resorted to this kind of tactic," party spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters in Delhi.
"This is nothing but a clear case of maligning our leaders and the Election Commission must look into this by conducting a thorough probe into the entire issue," he said.
This was a serious matter and showed to what extent the Congress could go to malign its opponents, Naqvi said adding, "In a bid to paint a bad picture of its political opponents, it is indulging in these kind of acts.
"Jogi, who is facing charges of forging documents, can go to any extent to bring down his rivals. We have cautioned our cadres to be beware of such tactics and counter these effectively."
In Raipur, Chhattisgarh BJP chief Raman Singh accused the Congress of hatching a conspiracy to tarnish the party's image before the assembly elections. "I have spoken to Judeo and he had said he had nothing to do with it. The allegation is totally baseless," he said.
Naqvi said the best course of action would be for the Election Commission to intervene and put an immediate halt to the publication and telecast of such reports besides ordering a high-level probe.
Seizing the opportunity, the Congress has demanded immediate arrest and dismissal of the Union minister and filing of an FIR against him.
"After Bangaru Laxman and Jaya Jaitley, it is now Judeo who has been caught on camera accepting bribe. The government cannot shirk responsibility. It is incumbent upon the prime minister to proceed against the minister caught in the act on video," AICC general secretary Ambika Soni and party spokesman S Jaipal Reddy told reporters in Delhi.
Soni said the government should also ensure that the evidence in the case was secure. This, she said, was necessary in view of the experience following the Tehelka expose.
They dismissed the BJP's charge that the allegation against Judeo was a Congress conspiracy. "For us the editor (of the newspaper that did this story) is more credible than the spokesman of the BJP," Reddy said.
"The central government should not fight shy (about ordering a probe). After a chief minister wrote to it about a circular, it did not take even a day to order a CBI inquiry," Soni said in an obvious reference to the CBI's charge sheet against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi.