ED raids on Chhattisgarh Cong leaders 'politically motivated': Baghel

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Bhupesh Baghel Chhattisgarh CM

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel addresses a press conference regarding searches conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at the premises linked to Congress leaders in the state, in Raipur

Raipur: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Monday called the Enforcement Directorate's raids at the premises of Congress leaders in the state a “politically motivated” move and claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party was afraid of the Congress and misusing central agencies to crush the voices of political opponents.

Their intention is to impact the Congress's upcoming plenary session in Raipur where a roadmap for the 2024 general elections will be discussed, Baghel said addressing a press conference at the party's state headquarters 'Rajiv Bhawan'.

AICC general secretary and state in-charge Kumari Selja, Chhattisgarh Congress chief Mohan Markam, state ministers and other party leaders were also present during the press conference.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday conducted searches at multiple locations in Chhattisgarh, including at premises linked to Congress party leaders, as part of an ongoing investigation into the coal levy money laundering case, officials said.

The raids come ahead of the three-day plenary session of the Congress from February 24 in Raipur.

“Whenever the Congress takes any major step, such acts (raids by central agencies) happen…The BJP-led Centre is scared of the Congress. The BJP was nervous when the Congress took out the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' and now they are afraid of the plenary session going to be held in Raipur,” Baghel said.

They have resorted to low level acts to create hindrances ahead of the conclave out of their frustration, he claimed.

"But, we are not afraid of such acts and we will emerge stronger and make the event a grand success. When we were not afraid of the Britishers, then why should we be afraid of them (BJP),” Baghel said.

The CM termed the raids as "politically motivated" and said the action was carried out to garner political benefits.

Earlier, Baghel in a tweet said such acts will not weaken the morale of party leaders who are engaged in the preparation of the party's upcoming plenary session.

“Today the ED has raided the residence of many of my colleagues, including the treasurer of the Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee, the party's former vice-president and an MLA,” he said.

“There is a plenary session of the Congress in Raipur after four days. Our spirits cannot be broken by stopping our colleagues engaged in preparations for the session through such acts. The BJP is disappointed with the success of 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' and the truth of Adani being exposed. This raid is an attempt to divert attention. The country knows the truth. We will fight and win,” the CM tweeted. Addressing the press conference, Kumari Selja also targeted the Centre and accused it of adopting oppressive policies against political opponents.

“It is evident by the oppressive policies of the Narendra Modi-led Centre that it is so afraid of the opposition, particularly the Congress. They are not allowing the opposition to raise their voice inside Parliament as well as outside,” she claimed.

According to officials, the searches are underway since early morning at over a dozen locations related to MLA Devendra Yadav in Bhilai (Durg district), Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee treasurer Ramgopal Agrawal, chairman of Chhattisgarh State Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board Sushil Sunny Agrawal and party's state spokesperson R P Singh in Raipur.

The raids also covered premises of some other ruling party leaders and MLAs.

The officials said the ED is investigating those who have been "beneficiaries" of the proceeds of crime of the alleged coal levy scam perpetrated during the tenure of the current government.

The ED raids relates to "a massive scam in which an illegal levy of Rs 25 was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and middlemen", the agency has alleged.

Nine persons including state administrative service officer Saumya Chaurasia, Suryakant Tiwari, his uncle Laxmikant Tiwari, Chhattisgarh cadre IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi and another coal businessman Sunil Agrawal have been arrested by it till now in the case.