BJP Accuses Chhattisgarh CM of Hawala Scandal Amid Heated Election Campaign

Large scale hawala operations are done to siphon off the proceeds of betting to off-shore accounts

NEW DELHI: The BJP on Saturday launched a sharp attack on Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, accusing him of having received hawala money as a kickback from illegal betting operators in order to fund the Congress campaign for the state’s upcoming Assembly election. The Congress hit back, alleging that the ED’s claims against Mr Baghel are part of the BJP's "conspiracy" to tarnish his image. It asserted that the people of the state will give a befitting reply to such tactics in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Addressing a press conference, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh claimed that the BJP is staring at certain defeats in the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Assembly polls and therefore the saffron party is misusing central agencies, such as the ED and the CBI, to tarnish the image of its leaders.

Mr Ramesh further claimed that in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the governments are popular. The schemes of the Congress governments are reaching the common people of the two states. As the Congress government's welfare initiatives are popular, the BJP has only one target -- damage the images of the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

"The people of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have faith in the Congress. The BJP is indulging in vendetta politics," he said.

The Congress said it will raise the issue with the Election Commission that the ED raids are being conducted during the poll process, when the model code of conduct is in force and claimed that it is a clear "violation" of the rules as it disturbs the level-playing field.

Earlier, the Congress alleged that the Enforcement Directorate, CBI and income-tax department are “campaigners” and “frontline warriors” of the BJP who have been given “targets” to scare the Opposition leaders and make them join the ruling party.

The BJP accused the Congress of using hawala money from the illegally-run Mahadev betting app to fund its poll campaign in Chhattisgarh as it targeted Mr Baghel over the allegation that he received more than Rs 500 crores kickback from the firm's promoters.

"Never before has evidence come forth that clearly indicates that hawala operators' instruction and money emanating from Dubai by looting the poor have been utilised by the Congress leadership to fight an election," Union minister Smriti Irani told a press conference.

Mr Baghel, she alleged, has redefined corruption and asserted that the "overwhelming" evidence, including from the states not ruled by the BJP, has indicted the Congress leadership too.

He is fighting the polls not with the support of people but hawala and betting operators, she said.

"Satta (power) me rah kar satta (betting) ka khel khela hai (he has played the game of betting while being in power)," she said, attacking him.

A charge that the Congress party has strongly denied.

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