'Hawala' money being used to fund poll campaign in Chhattisgarh, says Smriti Irani; Congress hits back
New Delhi, Nov 4 : The Congress on Saturday hit back at Union Minister Smriti Irani after she accused the grand old party of using 'hawala' money brought by illegal betting operators to fund its poll campaign in Chhattisgarh.
The remarks from the Congress leaders came after Irani while addressing a Press conference at the party headquarters while accusing Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel of fighting the polls not with the support of people but hawala and betting operators, said that never before in our electoral history had people seen such evidence.
She said, "Satta (power) me rah kar satta (betting) ka khel khela hai (he (Baghel) has played the game of betting while being in power)."
Irani said that the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) probe is based on the details of investigations by police in Chhattisgarh as well as Andhra Pradesh and asked if Baghel is putting his own government in the dock.
Citing the probe, she said more than Rs 64 crore protection money was also given to authorities by illegal betting operators.
There are voice messages and statements of the accused linking the use of betting money for funding the Congress' campaign in the state and kickbacks given to Baghel, Irani claimed.
Hitting back at Irani, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, 'She has the information that is not filed in charge sheet, or in court or are in public domain, while a sitting minister comes to know about it. This alliance which I talked about has been proven.'
Singhvi said that the case started 18 months ago. All the documents are there. 'With less than five days left for elections for the first phase, why she has to do a Press conference? Everyone knows the truth and they should not think that people are fools.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that on August 24, 2023 the Chief Minister demanded for a ban on Mahadev App and also demanded for the arrest of the two promoters.
'I want to ask Irani, what happened to the demand with the central government. Why the demand was not met? You did not ban the app or arrested the promoters,' the Congress leader said.
To another question, Singhvi said, "The state government took this issue. Chhattisgarh government had taken action in last one and half years ago. Irani has taken the issue today and has the information which is not in public domain. This exposes them.'
Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said, "Police carried out action and also issued a look out notice on Juny 22, 2023 against the promoters of the mobile app. Has Centre made attempts to arrest them? State police had made several arrests.'
He went on to say that before this, did ED make any seizures. 'Actually the main culprit is you (BJP). We are investigating and arresting the culprits. They know that Chhattisgarh is going to be one-sided election, thus they are using the weapon of ED to tarnish the image of the government. We are now talking about caste census, OBC upliftment. Baghel is more popular on governance. This target of BJP is not going to be fulfilled,' Venugopal added.
Ramesh further said that the BJP has targeted the two OBC chief ministers of the Congress -- in Rajasthan and in Chhattisgarh.
'The BJP is issueless in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh due to the schemes. All the schemes have been popular and on that basis we are asking for mandate and we will get that. But on the last moment, the BJP and the Prime Minister have only one aim to tarnish the image of the party and its leaders. People know that what Congress has done in last five years.
Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ramesh said, 'Now BJP is also using guarantee word. Now they are saying it is PM's guarantee. Earlier he was king of U-turns. Modi ji has now become a copycat Prime Minister. He had taken U-turn on Aadhaar, on MNREGA etc.
'Earlier they used to say 'Revdi', now he (Modi) himself is copying the guarantee of Congress. They are not calling it BJP's guarantee, they are calling it Modi's guarantee,' Ramesh added.
Ramesh further said that the Modi-Shah-Sitharaman financial masterclass has decided to legalise all online betting in India and levied 28 per cent GST on these unscrupulous activities.
'Looking at the operational status of the alleged criminal Mahadev App, it is our belief that the BJP has been funded by the Mahadev App and to continue operating freely. This also provides a platform for BJP to push their political propaganda through investigating agencies. They are reluctant to arrest the kingpins fearing the funding will stop,' he said.
Singhvi also hit back at the government and said, 'Recently, ED has filed a charge sheet in the court, and chargesheet says that no incriminating evidence has been found from all these people. So it was very clear that ED is conducting all these raids based on hearsay or 'so-called' statement by some arrested people.'