"Attempts To Discredit Me": Punjab Chief Minister On Raids On Nephew

"My nephew was tortured by the ED to implicate my name," Mr Channi said.

Charanjit Singh Channi has accused the Centre of trying to intimidate him just before elections.

Chandigarh/New Delhi:

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi today accused the Centre of misusing central agencies to intimidate him weeks before the state assembly elections. "They tried the same in West Bengal (against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) and failed, they will fail here as well," he said in a press conference, adding that he is getting threats that the Centre won't let him contest the elections.

"I am also getting reports that the Centre will try to jeopardise the assembly polls....it won't allow me and other Congress leaders to file our nominations," Mr Channi said.

The Enforcement Directorate had yesterday raided Mr Channi's nephew Bhupinder Singh Honey's house in connection with an old illegal sand mining case, causing controversy over a political motive because of the timing.

"My nephew was tortured by the ED to implicate my name," he said.

Waving a copy of the ED's FIR from 2018 in the case for which the probe agency conducted the raids, Mr Channi claimed that there are 26 names in the FIR but his nephew was not named. "I still say that if my nephew is guilty then take action but don't resort to vendetta politics," he said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also attacked his Punjab counterpart, referring to a "live raid" by Aam Aadmi Party leader Raghav Chadha in December last year at the bank of a river in the Jindapur village of Chamkaur Sahib - Mr Channi's constituency. Mr Chadha had claimed that the illegal sand mafia enjoyed the patronage of the ruling government. "Even if the CM claims he doesn't meet the sand mafia, it's clear today that he himself is the sand mafia," Mr Chadha had said in a press conference following his unusual "raid".

The Punjab CM also trained his guns at political rival Arvind Kejriwal, accusing him of strengthening the BJP's hand. He claimed that Mr Kejriwal was "very happy" about the raids in Punjab and said that Mr Kejriwal's relative was also arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. 

"Why are only our leaders joining the BJP...Have you seen any AAP leaders joining them?" Mr Channi said, hinting that the BJP and AAP were working together to damage the Congress in the state.

"Despite uncovering it (illegal sand mining), the chief minister did not take action and even tried to justify it. It is clear that he (Chief Minister) and his family are involved in illegal sand mining. What can be expected for Punjab's future from a person whose family is involved in illegal mining," Mr Kejriwal had said yesterday.

Mr Channi further accused the BJP of "arm-twisting" to get leaders from Congress to defect to them. "I and my family won't bow down to these tactics," he said.

Referring to the security breach during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Punjab on January 5, Mr Channi said that the raids were also a conspiracy by the Centre to take revenge on Punjab for the incident. 

Illegal sand mining has been one of the talking points in the Punjab campaign. The ruling Congress has been accused by its former Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, of links to the trade.

Several opposition parties have also in the past accused the Narendra Modi-led government of misusing central agencies for political vendetta. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had yesterday hit out at the BJP saying the ED raids are the ruling party's "favourite weapon because they themselves have things to hide". He had challenged the union government. "Not everyone is like you. We have #NoFear," his tweet from last evening said, along with the hashtag "#BJPFakeRaid". 

The raids come in the middle of intense campaigning in Punjab, which will vote on February 20. The results will be declared on March 10.