Vinod Verma
Vinod VermaTwitter

The Congress on Saturday accused the BJP of gagging the media and demanded the release of senior journalist Vinod Verma, arrested for allegedly blackmailing Chhattisgarh PWD Minister Rajesh Munat. The party demanded that Munat should quit and a probe held into the alleged "sex CDs" of the Minister.

"Vinod Verma is not only a senior journalist, but also a member of Editors Guild of India. He was also a part of the fact-finding committee that went to Chhattisgarh to take stock of how secure the journalists were. It had also submitted a report.

"There have been many attacks on journalists in Chhattisgarh. The report which was submitted also puts the role of the state government in question," said Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera.

"It has been the character of the BJP governments in the states or at the Centre, whenever a question is raised against them, they are either called presstitutes by a senior Minister or called bazaru by the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi).

"Is this the new model of New India? Nobody can question them," he added.

Khera said: "In 2013 two journalists - Nemi Chand Jain and Sai Reddy -- were killed in Chhattisgarh. There was no action or any arrest."

The party said that even "Mersal" movie in Tamil Nadu, which was cleared by the Censor Board, came under attack by the BJP and government machinery over its critical references to the GST.

"There is person named Shyam Rangeela who does mimicry of Modi and Rahul Gandhi. What is wrong in that? Congress has no issues with that. But the programme was censored. And the Prime Minister is silent about it," said Khera. He was referring to a TV channel dropping the telecast of Rangeela mimicking Modi on a popular comedy show.

The party wanted to know why the Chhattisgarh police was exhibiting "absolute unprecedented effectiveness and efficiency" in arresting Vinod Verma at 3.30 a.m. from his house in Indirapuram. "They flew down the same night to arrest him. What is it that they want to hide?" he asked.

"He (Verma) was only doing his job. He was investigating the matter involving the Minister," Khera added.

He said that in apparent retaliation, the Chhattisgarh government lodged an FIR against state Congress unit chief Bhupesh Bhagel in a 22-year-old case. "Why are they nervous? Why are they so rattled and nervous about the content of the CD," he asked.

"We demand an independent enquiry of this entire episode coming from Chhattisgarh. Who all are involved, what is it that they are trying to cover?" Khera added.

Verma arrested in Ghaziabad early on Friday on charges of allegedly blackmailing the Chhattisgarh BJP leader. Verma denied the charge and said he was being framed.