Chhattisgarh: ED raids Congress leaders over alleged multi-crore coal scam
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) reportedly conducted raids at the residences of ruling Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh in connection with the purported multi-crore coal levy scam on Monday. Eight locations were searched to probe money laundering, including the premises of Congress officials in Raipur and Bhilai. Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying it was frustrated and pursuing a political vendetta.
Why does this story matter?
- The action has reignited claims of the Opposition that the BJP-led central government is using the country's prime investigation agencies to target and harass its political opponents.
- Chhattisgarh is a Congress-ruled state, and its Assembly elections are scheduled for November this year.
- So far, nine people have been arrested in this case, including IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi and Baghel's former deputy secretary Saumya Chaurasia.
BJP distracting people from Adani row, Bharat Jodo Yatra: Baghel
Bhupesh Baghel said that the ED raided the residences of his aides, including Chhattisgarh Congress Committee treasurer Ramgopal Agrawal, Congress's former vice president, and an MLA. This comes four days ahead of the Congress's 85th Plenary Session scheduled in Raipur. He said the action was part of the BJP's conspiracy to distract people from the Adani Group-Hindenburg row and the Bharat Jodo Yatra's success.
BJP doing third-rate politics: Congress
Following the raids, Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Pawan Khera held a press conference in Delhi, slamming the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for resorting to "third-rate politics." Notably, 17 Opposition parties united against the powers granted to the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Ramesh said they would file a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging it.
These are the subjects of the raids
The ED claimed that Rs. 52 crore from the proceeds of the scam went to a senior political leader and around Rs. 4 crore to some MLAs. As per PTI, the subjects of the raid that Baghel mentioned could be MLA Devendra Yadav, whose residence is in Bhilai, and Congress state spokesperson RP Singh, whose premises could be related to locations raided in Raipur.
What is the coal levy scam
As per the ED, a racket collected an illegal levy of Rs. 25 per ton of coal extracted from the mines in the state. The accused mastermind, Suryakant Tiwari, allegedly formed a nexus with bureaucrats and some businessmen and collected around Rs. 500 crore through extortion. This money was allegedly used for party-related activities and buying benami property.
Accused businessman claimed ED pressured him to frame leaders
Businessman Nikhil Chandrakar, an accused in the case who was summoned for questioning in December, claimed the ED pressured him to name political leaders to frame them in the case. He filed a police complaint and a petition in the ED court alleging mental torture.