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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Cong fights fire but fear takes grip as polls near

In Delhi, AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala and party incharge for Punjab Harish Chaudhary came to Channi's defence while accusing the BJP and its government at the Centre of defaming Punjab and Punjabiyat by raiding a relative of CM.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 19, 2022 3:58:23 pm
During the searches in Ludhiana. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Yet to come to grips with the revolt brewing within the party after it declared its first list of 86 candidates for February 20 Punjab Assembly polls, the Congress now is faced with a bigger worry — the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at residence and offices of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s nephew allegedly in an illegal mining case.

In Delhi, AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala and party incharge for Punjab Harish Chaudhary came to Channi’s defence while accusing the BJP and its government at the Centre of defaming Punjab and Punjabiyat by raiding a relative of CM. They said that Channi’s nephew Bhupinder Singh was a friend of Kudratdeep Singh, who was an accused in a FIR dating back to 2018, and asked why and how the ED was raiding him.

However, back home in Punjab, state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu said that “those who are raided will have to explain.”

Sidhu at the same time said, “Raid does not mean the person who is raided is guilty… They indulge in arm-twisting after conducting these raids. Our former chief minister’s (Amarinder Singh) son-in-law was also raided. So whosoever has been raided will have to explain it.”

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Most Punjab leaders preferred not to speak on the issue while a minister, requesting not to be named, said, “Why should the Congress worry? Is there not precedent of institutions being misused to settle the political scores? This has happened in so many states. People understand everything”.

Cabinet minister Pargat Singh, in a tweet said that the ED raid on a relative of CM on the eve of elections “is another instance of blatant misuse of investigative agencies for political ends” by the BJP. He termed it “as an attack on Indian democracy” and said “people of Punjab will give a befitting reply on 20th February”.

Former state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar too came out in support of Channi. He said “it is the timing of ED raid, which exposes its real intent — to browbeat the CM and to damage the prospects of Congress Party”. He termed the raid a “highly deplorable undemocratic act”.

A number of Congress leaders, however, kept calling each other as well as the media persons throughout the day to check the details about the raids and if any incriminating evidence was found.

“I do not know what the real story is. But I am waiting and watching. Let us see. If there is any evidence then we are doomed,” said a senior party leader.

Another leader said, “It was sad that we are fighting fire on the day the Aam Aadmi Party has declared its CM candidate. But I have known Channi closely. I never knew he had a relative in Ludhiana. I know his nephews and many relatives.”

Channi defended himself saying such attacks took place on Mamata Banerjee’s relatives in West Bengal during Assembly elections. “Now, ED is trying to pressurise us. An attempt is being made to create all kinds of pressure.”

“Not just on the ministers, Chief Minister, but pressure is being created on every Congress worker. Such an atmosphere is not good for democracy. When elections are near, they thought about conducting ED raids. But we are ready to face all pressure. We will carry on with our electioneering and they will not succeed,” he said.

On the FIR dating back of 2018, Channi said, “I was not the CM then. They have to target me and my ministers and attempt to put pressure. But let me say this that Punjabis never come under pressure. You have seen what all has been happening in the past. This attempt to put pressure on me and the Punjab Congress will not succeed.”

A number of Congress leaders feared if Amarinder Singh’s dossier, that he had allegedly got prepared as CM against his MLAs and ministers, was handed over to BJP. There were whispers in the Congress camp if the BJP was working on the dossier even though Amarinder had stated that he had not prepared any such document. A few days ago Amarinder had said he would not make any list of MLAs, involved in illegal sand mining, public. “May be whatever files he prepared on our MLAs are coming out now,” said a party leader.

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