MADAN Lal Khurana and Bhajan Lal have been friends for the past 18 years. Both were in the Janata Party in 1977 for three years. Though Bhajan Lal defected to the Congress along with his entire cabinet, and Khurana joined the BJP a few months later in April 1980, their personal friendship remained unaffected. The two, as chief ministers of Haryana and Delhi respectively, amicably sorted out problems over Yamuna water sharing last year.
But Khurana has every reason to feel he has been betrayed by his friend Bhajan Lal. As chief minister of Delhi, Khurana had ignored the informal directive from the RSS and the BJP to quit without waiting for the chargesheet, mainly on the assurance from Bhajan Lal that he was not on the list of those being charge sheeted. Even when Yashwant Sinha quit as leader of the Bihar Assembly and its membership, Khurana sat pretty, convinced that he was safe. But Khurana finally had to hand over the mantle to Sahib Singh Verma, former education and development minister, to become Delhi's new chief minister.
Khurana got the first agency flash of the CBI intent to prosecute him when he was in the Parliament Annexe, attending the party's two-day National Executive. He was immediately asked to rush to 28, Akbar Road, the residence of Police Commissioner Nikhil Kumar, and submit his resignation to Lt Governor P.K. Dave who was present there. Khurana complied.
In the party's core group a majority was in favour of a 'puritan approach' to fight the case from a 'position of moral strength'. Khurana was ridiculed for not having followed the example of Advani and Sinha. "I will expose Rao," said Khurana who is being chargesheeted for having accepted Rs 3 lakh from the Jains in 1988, five years before he became chief minister.
While senior BJP leaders resented Khurana's refusal to resign earlier, he had a prominent defender in Murli Manohar Joshi. At the National Executive, Joshi said that he was opposed to members resigning, for, by doing that, "we will only be falling into the trap laid by Rao". Joshi also sought to lodge his dissent against the manner in which the party had suspended the Gonda MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who was arrested under TADA. He said Singh should be considered innocent till proved guilty and that he was opposed to Advani resigning from the Lok Sabha. Surprisingly, Joshi was overruled.
And so, Khurana resigned on February 22, moments after the CBI informed the court about its intent to seek his prosecution.