The Aam Aadmi Party’s National Secretary Pankaj Gupta was served an Enforcement Directorate notice, the party’s spokesperson Raghav Chadha said while addressing a press conference in Delhi on Monday.
The ED on Friday sought to question Gupta in a case involving the party’s former Punjab MLA, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, India Today reported. Gupta has to join the investigation on September 22.
The law enforcement agency is investigating Khaira in two separate cases relating to drug trafficking and the issuance of a fake passport. Khaira is also under the ED lens in connection with the case in which he raised $1,00,000-worth donations from the United States for the AAP.
However, it was not revealed why Gupta would be required in the ongoing investigation into Khaira.
AAP Spokesperson Raghav Chadha criticised the BJP for using the ED to target party leaders. He described the notice as a “love letter” from Narendra Modi government’s “favourite agency”.
He further said that if the BJP could not “electorally assassinate” an outfit, it “assassinates the character”.
“I want to tell BJP that your principle won’t work,” he said. “[Narendra] Modi is scared of AAP’s success, which is why he has asked all the agencies to persecute AAP.”
Chadha also called the ED a mere “political revenge seeking machine”that has been activated by Prime Minister Modi, along with other agencies, because he was “scared of AAP’s success”.
He sought to know if any BJP leader has been served an ED notice since 2014, when the BJP came to power at the Centre.
Further, Chadha said that the ED notice to Gupta was a part of a “series of witch hunts” launched by the BJP against his party.
He claimed that the Aam Aadmi Party had received Income Tax notices in 2015 and 2016 too. In the following year, he said the Election Commission had accused AAP of securing foreign funding and thus, it had wanted to cancel the party’s registration.
AAP founder and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also called out the “BJP’s tactics”.
“In Delhi they tried to defeat us with IT Department, CBI, Police – but we won 62 seats,” he said in a tweet. “As we grow in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Gujarat – we get an ED notice! People of India want honest politics – these tactics of BJP will never succeed, they will make us stronger.”
Past criticism for the ED
This is not the first time that the Enforcement Directorate’s actions have been called a witch-hunt in recent past.
In September 2020, human rights organisation Amnesty International India had called out the agency’s “constant harassment” for demanding transparency from the government about the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. The human rights watchdog also said that its bank accounts were frozen – a move that it called a “witch-hunt over unfounded and motivated allegations”.
Opposition parties have criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party on many occasions for using the Enforcement Directorate to target them.
In August, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee – the nephew to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – said that BJP was trying to pressure them through the central agency. The law enforcement agency had summoned Abhishek Banerjee to Delhi in connection with an alleged money laundering case.
The case pertains to illegal mining and theft of coal from leasehold mines of Eastern Coalfield Limited in West Bengal’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas, and involves the embezzlement of thousands of crores of rupees.
Mamata Banerjee in August had also said that BJP leaders used central agencies to target her party when they couldn’t compete with it in politics.
The National Conference had criticised the Enforcement Directorate in October 2020 when party chief Farooq Abdullah was questioned over alleged misappropriation of funds worth Rs 113 crore of the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association.
National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar called the ED summons “calculated coercive measures”, adding that it was aimed at curtailing Abdullah’s efforts to weave unity among mainstream political parties in the Union Territory.
“The only way to get a clean chit these days is to surrender one’s ideology and join the BJP,” Dar had said in the statement.
When the Enforcement Directorate had raided Karnataka Congress chief DK Sivakumar’s premises in October 2020, the party spokesperson had condemned the “raid raj”. Sivakumar was accused of evading tax and being involved in hawala transactions worth crores of rupees.