Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Friday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party wants to contest Assembly polls in the state with the help of central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The statement came hours after the central agency alleged that Baghel was paid Rs 508 crore by a cash courier sent from the United Arab Emirates by the promoters of Mahadev App, a website that facilitates illegal gambling and betting, reported The Indian Express.
On Friday, the Enforcement Directorate had said that it has arrested the cash courier, Asim Das, and seized his car and Rs 5.39 crore cash from his home. So far, the central agency has arrested four persons and made seizures worth over Rs 450 crore. The agency has also filed a complaint against 14 people.
The Enforcement Directorate’s actions come ahead of the elections for the 90-member Assembly that will be held in two phases on November 7 and November 17. In the past few months, the central agency has conducted raids, made seizures and issued summons to politicians in other poll-bound states as well.
However, Baghel said that the development, which comes two days before the first phase of Assembly polls in the state, shows that the BJP is using central agencies to tarnish his image.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party wants to contest Chhattisgarh elections with the help of agencies like ED, IT, DRI and CBI,” Baghel tweeted on Friday. “Just before the elections, ED has made the most malicious attempt to tarnish my image. This is a political attempt to defame the popular Congress government which is being done through ED.”
He alleged that the Enforcement Directorate had first raided the homes of people close to him to defame them and now on the basis of the statement of an unknown person, it has accused him of taking Rs 508 crore in bribes.
Baghel said that the central agency highlighted the statement even though the claim is still being investigated. “If investigation has not been done then issuing a press release on the statement of one person not only reveals the intentions of the ED but also reveals the bad intentions of the Central Government behind it,” he said.
The Congress leader also asked how such a huge amount of money is making its way into the state when the Election Commission is in charge and the Central Reserve Police Force and the police are handling security.
“Is there any nexus between central agencies going on in this too,” he asked. “Is this money being loaded in boxes and brought in aeroplanes along with officers of ED and security agencies?”
Besides Das, the Enforcement Directorate have arrested police constable Bheem Yadav.
According to the central agency, Yadav had “unauthorisedly” travelled to Dubai in the last three years and met Ravi Uppal and Sourabh Chandrakar, the main promoters of the Mahadev App.
“He [Yadav] also participated in the gala functions of Mahadev App and his travel expenses were borne by Rapid Travels of Ahuja Brothers, a money laundering and ticketing company of Mahadev App,” an Enforcement Directorate spokesperson told The Indian Express. “He was the conduit to receive bribe money from Mahadev App promoters for the benefit of senior officers and politicians of Chhattisgarh.”
On Saturday, Union Minister Smriti Irani alleged that Congress is contesting Chhattisgarh elections with the help of hawala operators.
“Shocking that we have use of hawala operation, illicit money through illegal betting to fund Congress campaign,” Irani alleged at a press conference. “Never before in our electoral history have people seen such evidence.”
The BJP MP said that those arrested by the Enforcement Directorate have admitted that they sent protection money to Baghel in exchange for protection from arrests. However, the matter is still under investigation.
In response to BJP’s allegations, the Congress also issued a statement on Saturday claiming that the Enforcement Directorate’s investigation is a “clear-cut conspiracy” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tarnish Baghel’s image.
The party said that the Chhattisgarh government had initiated an investigation into Mahadev App.
“The FIR registered by the Chhattisgarh Police was the basis for the start of the ED investigation into the Mahadev App,” the party said. “The ED conveniently converted the investigation from a criminal investigation into a politically motivated one. And since then, they have been circling around bureaucrats, politicians and politically-affiliated persons.”