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regular-article-logo Thursday, 30 May 2024

Congress flags Chhattisgarh liquor scam to highlight Modi government’s use of investigating agencies

Strengthened by SC decision earlier this week to quash ED case that also named former Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Congress said it stands vindicated

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 11.04.24, 06:15 AM
Abhishek Manu Singhvi addresses the media in New Delhi on Wednesday

Abhishek Manu Singhvi addresses the media in New Delhi on Wednesday PTI picture

The Congress on Wednesday sought to flag the alleged Chhattisgarh liquor scam as an example of how the Narendra Modi government had weaponised investigating agencies to fabricate cases against the Opposition for the BJP’s political aspirations.

Strengthened by the Supreme Court decision earlier this week to quash the Enforcement Directorate case that also named former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, the Congress said it stands vindicated.

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“If there was really a scam of Rs 2,161 crore, as alleged by the ED, then why could it not produce the evidence?” asked Congress spokesman and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

Briefing reporters, Singhvi said the case was fabricated with an eye on last year’s Chhattisgarh Assembly elections. Referring to the SC order quashing the case, he said the court stated there was no “predicate offence”. Listing the loopholes in the case, which the court also flagged, Singhvi said the ED, “a coalition partner of the BJP”, was used as a puppet by the Modi government to build a narrative against the Baghel government before the Assembly elections in November 2023.

“The scam was alleged to have taken place in 2019-20 but the ED initiated proceedings three years later just before the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh in 2023. Obviously, the motive is ulterior, it is political,” Singhvi said, adding that it was alleged that crores were exchanged in bribes.

“Where is the money now?” Singhvi asked, drawing attention to the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah had raised the so-called scam in their campaign speeches and cited astronomical amounts.

“The question arises, if it is a Rs 2,161-crore scam, why is the Supreme Court quashing it and why are you unable to show to the Supreme Court a money trail of Rs 216, leave aside Rs 2,161 crore. Show the money trail…. You have done this out of a distorted view of politics, a distorted view of a level-playing field, a view in which your object is to shoot and scoot, paint them black and we will see later on the consequences. So, the kind of figures thrown are nothing but imaginary,” Singhvi said.

The Congress wanted to know if it was such a big scam as was claimed by the BJP leadership, has the ED presented any evidence of money laundering before the media or the Supreme Court?

“If the crime happened in the liquor factories then why has not even one such manufacturer been arrested? Because the sole purpose of the case was to weaken the Opposition ahead of the elections,” Singhvi said, underscoring the fact that no arrests were made four months after the BJP government assumed the reins of the administration in Chhattisgarh.

Now that the case has fallen flat, Singhvi alleged that the state government intends to use the Economic Offences Wing under it to try to revive the same allegations, which have failed in the Supreme Court, to pursue this case against Baghel and other officials named in the so-called scam. Baghel is contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

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