Cong funding C’garh poll campaign with betting operators’ illicit money: BJP

New Delhi: The BJP on Saturday accused the Congress of using hawala money from the illegally-run Mahadev betting app to fund its poll campaign in Chhattisgarh as it targeted Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel over the allegation that he received more than Rs 500 crore kickback from the firm’s promoters.

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

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.

The chief minister has accused the BJP of using central investigation agencies to target him ahead of the Assembly polls in the state on November 7 and 17.

Hitting back, Irani said the Enforcement Directorate’s probe is based on the details and evidence brought forth in investigations by police in Chhattisgarh as well as Andhra Pradesh and asked if Baghel is putting his own government in the dock.

She noted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not in power in either of the states.

“Does Baghel believe that the Chhattisgarh Police and government, and Andhra Pradesh are conspiring against him,” she said, noting that government employee Chandra Bhushan Verma had admitted to handling Rs 65-crore kickback meant to protect the betting operation from police in the poll-bound state.

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, she claimed.

Are all evidence wrong and only Baghel is right, she asked.

Irani cited the ED’s statement that a cash courier, Asim Das, arrested by it in Raipur with Rs 5.39 crore was sent by the app promoters from the UAE to deliver a large amount of cash for electioneering expenses of the ruling Congress in the state, to attack Baghel.

More than Rs 450 crore worth of proceeds of the crime have been seized by probe agencies, she said.

The ED had on Friday claimed that a forensic analysis and a statement made by a ‘cash courier’ have led to “startling allegations” that Mahadev betting app promoters paid about Rs 508 crore to the Chhattisgarh chief minister so far, and that “these are subject matter of investigation”.

Baghel later accused the ED of making a “malicious attempt” to tarnish his image ahead of the Assembly polls in the state.

He also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah of taking the help of central investigation agencies after “failing” to take on the ruling Congress in the state.

The Congress has backed its chief minister and said the people will give a befitting reply in the elections.

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.