Two of its former ministers arrested in connection with different cases of graft, an uneasy calm is prevailing in the Punjab Congress amid fears that more of its leaders may end up in jail as the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi party dispensation has initiated inquiries into several irregularities.
The Vigilance Bureau Monday arrested former Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu in a case of alleged foodgrain lifting tender scam. In June, the Vigilance Bureau had arrested former minister and Congress leader Sadhu Singh Dharamsot on corruption charges.
While Congress has accused the AAP government of political vendetta, Chief Minister Mann Tuesday said his party had promised to the people of Punjab in the run up to the Assembly polls that it will seek account of each penny from those who looted the state exchequer.
“Law is taking its own course. We are not doing any political vendetta… Whenever we get a complaint alongwith evidence, then we hold an inquiry. Arrest warrants are issued only after we find that the accused had a role to play in the wrongdoing,” Mann said. There’s a reason why Congress leaders, especially the former ministers, are afraid.
A few days ago, Jail Minister Harjot Bains handed over an inquiry report to Mann in a case related to VVIP treatment to gangster-turned-politician from Uttar Pradesh, Mukhtar Ansari during his stay in a Punjab jail for 2 years and 3 months after the state police had registered an FIR.
Bains had raised the issue in the budget session of Vidhan Sabha too. He had claimed that Ansari lived in Punjab jail with his wife. The UP government had to move the Supreme Court to get Ansari’s custody after it failed to secure his arrest despite issuing 26 warrants.
“Five-star facilities were provided to him,” Bains had said adding that this was done during the tenure of former jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. Randhawa had earlier stated that he had no role to play in keeping Ansari in Punjab jail. He had said that he had written a letter to former CM Capt Amarinder Singh on the issue.
In another inquiry into an alleged land scam at Bhagatpura village, Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal recently submitted a probe report to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.
Dhaliwal had been accusing Congress leader and former rural development and panchayat minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa of approving the panchayat land in Bhagatupura at a low price “in collusion with some builders, even when the election code of conduct was in force”. Bajwa had refuted the allegation saying that he had not flouted any rule.
Only recently, the AAP government cancelled the 33-year-lease of 10 acres of prime land given to Bal Gopal Gau Basera Welfare Society, an NGO in the name of former health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and his brother. As per the report, the NGO was given land on annual lease of Rs 25,000 per acre in March 2020, during former minister Tript Bajwa’s tenure. Balbir Sidhu had stated that the land was taken on lease by the Gau Sewa Trust, and a gaushala and a temple were existing there. The government allowed the gaushala and temple to function from the land and cancelled the lease of remaining part of land.
A few former ministers in Congress government say in private that the AAP dispensation was working on arresting most of them. “We are also mentally prepared. We know the government will put us behind bars on some pretext or the other,” a former minister said.
On Monday, AAP spokesperson, Malwinder Singh Kang had said that if “government examines the files of departments, the names of Congress leaders including Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Balbir Sidhu and others crop up; the investigations in various scams that occurred in the previous government are underway and all will get punished”.
He said that an investigation in the Rs 150 crore scam in agriculture department is also going on. He was referring to about 11,275 machines, for which Centre had given subsidy to the state. The record of these machines from three districts was missing.
CM Mann Tuesday mocked at the Congress for their protest against the Vigilance Bureau. On Congress allegations of vendetta, Mann said if they wanted to indulge in vendetta then many others would have been arrested.