Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel – mired in a corruption case involving the now-illegal Mahadev online betting app – has demanded the Election Commission act against attempts to “tarnish” voters’ image of his government just days before polling. The Chief Minister accused the BJP of having “weaponised” the Enforcement Directorate, which he called the ruling party’s electoral “ally”.
Chhattisgarh votes in two phases – November 7 and 17 – but the Chief Minister appeared untroubled by the prospect of corruption allegations derailing his re-election bid, and joked with reporters, “(BJP can) enjoy till November 17 (second and final phase of polling). It will not affect the election… as BJP is not contesting itself… they are contesting through ED and IT (the Income Tax Department).”
“Why has Election Commission not taken cognisance? A complaint will be sent from us (the Congress) and investigation should be done for tarnishing image (of his government). There are clear directions in Election Commission guidelines. They should look into this…” he said Monday morning.
#WATCH | Raipur: On Mahadev betting app case, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel says, “…Why has the Election Commission not taken cognizance of this? … A complaint will be sent from us…Investigation should be done for the tarnishing image… There are clear directions in the… pic.twitter.com/o1Iwdo1uoG
— ANI (@ANI) November 6, 2023
On Sunday, the Chief Minister drew attention to the timing of the allegations and release of a video by one of the accused – Shubham Soni, who claims to be the “real” owner of the app. Mr Soni declared he had relocated to Dubai on Mr Baghel’s advice and that he had given the Chief Minister Rs 508 crore.
Mr Baghel has refuted all allegations and has asked why the app had not been shut down. The centre has now blocked the app and 21 others after a request by the ED. Junior IT Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar slammed Mr Baghel’s government for not making such a request themselves.
“It is no mystery why and how this video has come… it is also not difficult to understand that such a statement has been issued before elections only to benefit BJP…” the Chief Minister posted on X.
“Everyone understands this is being done by weaponising ED…” he said.
In two lengthy posts Mr Baghel questioned the ED and the centre over their “delay” in acting against Mr Soni and the Mahadev app, and claimed Chhattisgarh Police was first to flag the illegal syndicate.
On the allegations by Shubam Soni – who is wanted by the central agency on money laundering charges – the Chief Minister denied one-on-one contact and said, “I do not know this person… nor have I ever met him in the way he is claiming. I can’t say if he was part of a gathering or function.”
The ED has claimed a link between Shubham Soni and Bhupesh Baghel after it seized Rs 5.39 crore, in cash, from a hawala courier called Asim Das. Mr Das has claimed the money was for Mr Baghel. ED sources have said interrogation revealed “regular payments” from Mr Soni to Mr Baghel.
With input from ANI
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