New Delhi, November 4
With three days to go for Chhattisgarh polls, a political storm has erupted in the state with the BJP accusing Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel of fighting the poll using illegal betting money of Mahadev app, and the Congress hitting back saying the rival party, fearing loss of ground, is out to defame the CM.
"The Chhattisgarh CM has redefined corruption. Congress is fighting Chhattisgarh elections with the help of hawala operators. Satta mein rehkar satte ka khel (Betting while in power) is Congress policy. The Congress is fighting elections not with the support of people but with the support of hawala operators," Union Minister SMriti Irani said in a morning press conference today.
The Congress hit back soon after with leaders KC Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh and Abhishek Singhvi saying that the BJP, facing imminent defeat in elections, was resorting to "malicious lies".
"People will give a befitting reply," Venugopal said at a press conference to counter Irani.
The Congress also said that it was the Baghel government that initiated a probe against Mahadev app as early as 2022 and has been seeking the help of central agencies to arrest masterminds who are in Dubai.
"The ED has very conveniently converted a criminal investigation into a politically motivated one," a statement by Venugopal said asking why the BJP Government at the centre has legalised online betting imposing 28 % tax on the same.
The Congress accused the BJP of receiving money from Mahadev operators, asking why the masterminds had not yet been arrested.
Irani referred to ED claims that forensic analysis and a statement made by a cash couries Assem Das (arrested in Raipur yesterday) has revealed allegations that Mahadev promoters paid around Rs 508 crore to Baghel so far.
"Is it true that Aseem Das was under instruction to take money and help fund elections for Congress party in Chhattisgarh and that he was called to Dubai to deliver cash to Baghel," asked Irani.
She termed it shocking that probe agencies "are in possession of a recorded voice message from one Shubham Soni instructing Das to urgently go to Raipur to supply funds to Baghel for elections."
"Shubham in his written admission has stated that till now over Rs 500 crore have been given in bribes for political protection by the illegal betting racket namely the Mahadev online promoters in Chhattisgarh. This is not the only evidence available. There have been other arrests as well including of Chandrabhushan Verma, a government functionary, who admitted to being a bridge between Mahadev promoters and state political executives to ensure protection from state police," said the union minister.
Upon arrest Verma has admitted to have handled Rs 65 crore bribe amounts for Baghel, she alleged.
"Multiple searches, recorded statements have also led to seizure of proceeds of crime worth over Rs 409 crore. In our electoral history never before has evidence come forth to indicate that hawala operators' monies emanating from Dubai by looting the poor has been used by Congress to fight elections," she said.
The Congress in a statement dismissed all charges as politically motivated.
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