The Centre on Sunday issued blocking orders against 22 illegal betting apps and websites, including Mahadev Book, which is the focus of an Enforcement Directorate investigation.

The development comes after Enforcement Directorate’s inquiry into the illegal betting app syndicate and subsequent raids on Mahadev Book in Chhattisgarh revealed its unlawful operations, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said.

The central agency on Friday alleged that Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel was paid Rs 508 crore by a cash courier sent from the United Arab Emirates by the promoters of the Mahadev app, Ravi Uppal and Sourabh Chandrakar.

The agency also arrested the cash courier, Asim Das, and seized his car and Rs 5.39 crore cash from his home. It also arrested Chhattisgarh Police Constable Bhim Singh Yadav under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The allegations against the Congress government in the state come ahead of the elections for the 90-member Assembly that will be held on November 7 and November 17.

On Sunday, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the Chhattisgarh government had the power to recommend shutting down of the app under the Information Technology Act.

“However, they did not do so and no such request is made by the state government while they have been investigating it for last 1.5 years,” he said. “In fact, the first and only request has been received from ED [Enforcement Directorate] and it has been acted upon. Nothing prevented Chhattisgarh government from making similar requests.”

On Sunday, Baghel asked why the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre took so long to ban the app.

“I had even said that the government did not ban the app due to the greed of getting 28% GST [Goods and Services Tax] or the BJP and app operators have some deal,” he said in a social media post. “It is surprising that ED [Enforcement Directorate] has been investigating this matter for months and yet the app continued to operate.”

The finance ministry started levying 28% Central and Integrated Goods and Services Tax on online money gaming and casinos from October 1.

The Congress leader also said that the Centre should arrest the Mahadev app operators from Dubai and bring them to India as soon as possible.

“Chhattisgarh Police was the first to issue a look-out notice against them,” Baghel said. “Chhattisgarh Police would also like to interrogate them because the cases against them were registered here first.”

On Monday, Baghel wondered why the Election Commission had not taken cognisance of the matter.

“A complaint will be sent by us [to the Election Commission],” Baghel told reporters. “There should be an investigation on how this is an attempt to tarnish someone’s image. There are clear directions in the guidelines of the Election Commission [to such matters]. It [poll body] should look into this.”

On Saturday, BJP leader Smriti Irani accused the state’s Congress government of contesting the Assembly polls with the help of hawala operators. She also asked Baghel to clarify if he had accepted bribes from the illegal betting website.

“Shocking that use of hawala operation, illicit money through illegal betting is funding the Congress campaign,” Irani alleged at a press conference. “Never before in our electoral history have people seen such evidence.”

The BJP MP alleged that those arrested by the Enforcement Directorate have admitted that they sent money to Baghel in exchange for protection from arrests.

However, the Congress said that the Enforcement Directorate’s investigation is a “clear-cut conspiracy” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tarnish Baghel’s image.

“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.”