By Sushil Kutty
The regularity with which the Enforcement Directorate discovers alleged wrongdoings of opposition parties on the eve of elections should be a matter of investigation. But that calls for a regime change; the Narendra Modi government should be divested of power for discovering a nexus, if any. The ED, sometimes working in tandem with the CBI and/or other central investigating agencies, stands in the way of ridding the country of the Modi regime.
Among them all, the ED is the most potent; some would say, the most poisonous. Once the ED sinks its teeth into an opposition leader, it rarely lets go. Uncannily, ED always invariably strikes on the eve of an election. The Chhattisgarh assembly elections, for example, is round the corner and the Enforcement Directorate has struck.
The target: Chhattisgarh’s squeaky clean Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who the ED says took Rs 508 crore illegal gratification from the promoters of the notorious Mahadev APP for defraying election expenses. The allegation looks and sounds so patently politically motivated that it stinks of unspecified vendetta; perhaps levelled because Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel looks practically unbeatable and set to win yet another round of assembly elections.
Defeating Bhupesh Baghel is uphill and a desperate BJP would go to any extent to wrest Chhattisgarh from the grips of the Congress, which after decades has the full confidence of an unshakeable Muslim electorate and, perhaps, also that of the equally unshakeable Dalit vote-bank. The BJP is fearing another defeat and that, too, is practically unshakeable.
One too many “unshakeable” for even the Modi-Shah election juggernaut to beat. The allegation is that a “cash courier”, named Asim Das, was caught with Rs 5.39 crore that he was to hand over to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, the money belonging to the promoters of Mahadev APP, an illegal betting syndicate operating out of the UAE.
The ED insists Baghel has to date received Rs 508 crore from Mahadev APP, ostensibly for defraying election expenses. A somewhat similar allegation was levelled against the Aam Aadmi Party. The ED has also claimed it has discovered benami bank accounts of Mahadev APP linked to Baghel and involving Rs 15.59 crore.
The Congress has slammed the Modi government for using the ED to fight elections following ED statements that it was probing “cash courier” Asim Das’s revelations. The Congress said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was misusing the ED to scare and demoralise opposition parties.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel gave a clarification on ‘X’, accusing the BJP of fighting elections with the use of central investigating agencies such as the ED, IT, DRI and caged parrot CBI. Baghel slammed the ED for making a “most malicious attempt to tarnish” his image. “This is a political attempt to defame the popular Congress government.”
That being said, Chief Minister Baghel and the Congress have a tough task on hand. Unlike the so-called Delhi Liquorgate, ‘Mahadevgate’ has left a discernible trail with spoors clearly visible. Such as “cash courier” Asim Das, money confiscated from his car and his residence; proof of his travels to and from Dubai, the cop who was “conduit” and intelligence about Mahadev APP and its links with the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister.
The ED has found cash flows of Mahadev APP linking it to Chhattisgarh entities. The ED investigation is time-limited to nail Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel before the assembly elections, hoping that the revelations will nail the Baghel government and harm Congress’s chances of victory in the assembly elections.
Cash was found in Asim Das’s residence and also seized from his car. The money allegedly “arranged” for by Mahadev APP and “delivered to one politician Baghel” for allegedly defraying election expenses in the state of Chhattisgarh. The ED says Asim Das was sent from the UAE for just this one job – work out the money transfer details.
A policeman is also in ED’s custody – the conduit to receive the “bribe” from Mahadev APP, the “bribe” to be handed over to senior bureaucrats and Chhattisgarh politicians. The policeman “unauthorizedly travelled to Dubai” and participated in the gala functions of Mahadev APP. The cop’s travel expenses were paid by a travel agency owned by Mahadev APP.
To tell the truth, Bhupesh Baghel isn’t in the happiest of places right now. The word has already spread that he isn’t the Raja Harishchandra of Chhattisgarh. Chances are the investigation will be timed to benefit the BJP. “We will ensure Chhattisgarh voters will vote without fear,” said Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. The same Mandaviya is not bothered about the voters of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, what is his game here and who should the Chhattisgarh voters fear?
The “cash courier” and the “cop” are both in 7-day ED custody. The PMLA special judge, Raipur, is hearing the cases against them. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge finds it odd that the ED is taking action when the election is just round the corner. “Why didn’t they do it earlier, are they trying to scare the Opposition?” Kharge asked.
The Chhattisgarh assembly elections will be in two phases, on November 7 and on November 17. Counting of votes will be on December 3. In 2018, the Congress won the elections and the BJP was way behind in the number of seats –15. The Mahadev APP has the golden opportunity to ask people to lay bets on the number of seats the BJP will get on December 3 following the ED’s findings linking Bhupesh Baghel with Mahadev? With “Mahadev” on his side, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel cannot be better placed. (IPA Service)