The Enforcement Directorate has summoned actor Prakash Raj, a trenchant critic of the Narendra Modi government, for questioning in a money-laundering probe against a jewellery firm.
The actor was the brand ambassador for the Trichy-based Pranav Jewellers, which was raided by the ED on Monday.
“Khela hobe (Game on),” Raj wrote on X on Thursday night after news of the ED summons broke, borrowing Mamata Banerjee’s two-word dare to the BJP in the run-up to the 2021 Bengal Assembly elections.
The summons to Raj comes three days after he said in a tweet following India’s defeat to Australia in the World Cup final in Ahmedabad: “Look at it this way #Panauti is hurt for being denied his rehearsed speech....” The comment was on a cropped video showing Modi on the dais with Australia captain Pat Cummins, who is holding the trophy.
On November 14, Raj had shared two news reports on X. The first was from November 12 that quoted Modi as saying: “There has not been a single Diwali in the last 30-35 years that I have not celebrated with you (army jawans).” The other report, from January 2019, quoted the Prime Minister as saying: “Spent five days in jungle every Diwali to reflect on life.”
Raj wrote: “Dear LieLama. Is it difficult to remember when you Lie..”
On November 8, the seventh anniversary of the demonetisation, the actor had shared on X a newspaper clip that quoted Modi as saying, days after the note withdrawal: “Give me 50 days, burn me alive if I am wrong.”
Raj wrote: “Share and retweet if you remember.. a #Nautanki s quote on this #ChipAnniversaryDay #DemonetisationDisaster.”
Raj has not been found wanting when it comes to laughing at himself either.
His misadventure in contesting as an Independent from the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha constituency in 2019 was best described by the actor himself.
“A solid slap on my face,” he said about his abysmal show that saw him finish a poor third to the BJP’s P.C. Mohan and the Congress’s Rizwan Arshad.
But even then he had expressed his resolve to continue to fight for a “secular India”.
The ED summons is related to Pranav Jewellers, which is accused of running a Ponzi scheme. It had allegedly collected Rs 100 crore from the public for a purported gold investment scheme with the promise of high returns.
The ED had on Monday raided several branches of the chain. “A probe has revealed that Pranav Jewellers and other connected persons cheated the public by diverting public funds to shell entities under the garb of purchase of gold ornaments,” an ED official said.
Recently Raj got entangled in controversy over an innocuous post in connection with the Chandrayaan-3 landing.
The post showed the popular caricature of a lungi-clad Malayali tea seller on the moon, mixing the popular brew, and was accompanied by the actor’s comment in Kannada that translates as: “Breaking news: The image just received from Chandrayaan.”
The post appeared inspired by an old joke about Neil Armstrong being received by a Malayali tea seller when he set foot on the moon.
But Raj got trolled since many interpreted it as a dig at Modi, who often reminds people of his modest childhood selling tea at a railway station in Gujarat.