The Congress on Tuesday accused the BJP and its government at the Centre of defaming Punjab and Punjabiyat by raiding a relative of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi in an old case, and said the people of the state will give a befitting reply to the saffron party in the upcoming Assembly polls.
Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the BJP government is insulting a Dalit who was made the chief minister of Punjab and the Dalits and backward classes would not forgive the party for this.
He also accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of working in cahoots with the BJP as its convenor Arvind Kejriwal was the first to attack Mr Channi over the raids conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Mr Surjewala alleged that the ED has turned into the "election department" of the BJP.
"Today we saw the limit of vindictiveness. To seek revenge on a Dalit chief minister, the ED has been unleashed in Punjab, with which the chief minister and his family have nothing to do. The BJP is taking revenge on a Dalit chief minister.
"The ED is not the enforcement directorate but the BJP's election department," he told reporters.
Mr Surjewala also alleged that the AAP and the BJP are working together, adding that when the prime minister's convoy was stalled in Punjab, it was the Arvind Kejriwal-led party that jumped in his defence.
"Today, it was Kejriwal who gave the first statement on the raids. In Punjab, Uttrakhand and Goa, the AAP and the BJP are working together. One does a wrong act and the other supports it," he said.
"Today, when the ED is raiding on baseless charges, Kejriwal launches the first assault. But the people of Punjab know the meaning of a collaboration between (PM) Modi and the AAP. (PM) Modi has assaulted the dignity of the poor and the Scheduled Castes. They are unable to digest a Dalit as a chief minister. But three crore Punjabis will decide the future," he said.
Mr Surjewala also alleged that PM Modi and Mr Kejriwal are conspiring to malign Punjab.
"Is it not true that the BJP labelled the people of Punjab as Naxals and anti-India? The BJP is constantly conspiring to defame Punjab and Punjabiyat. When the prime minister's convoy was stalled, BJP leaders called Punjabis Khalistanis. Did anyone stop him?" he asked.
"The ED assault on Channi is not an assault on Channi, it is an assault on Punjab, Punjabiyat. The BJP is challenging the dignity of Punjab and Punjabis," the Congress leader alleged.
Mr Surjewala said for over a year, farmers kept seeking justice from the Centre, 700 of them died, but the prime minister did not have the decency to repeal three contentious farm laws, which were finally repealed when the farmers inflicted injuries on the BJP in bypolls.
"The BJP government is seeking revenge from Dalits and backwards. What happened in Uttar Pradesh -- the way Dalits and OBCs rejected the BJP. Again in Uttarakhand. And the way the BJP is witnessing losses, because the Dalits and backwards have decided to punish the party. The BJP's assault on Dalits has increased proportionately," Mr Surjewala alleged.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Punjab Harish Chaudhary said according to all the surveys, Mr Channi is the most popular leader in Punjab.
He said Punjabis were maligned during the farmers' agitation, but Punjabiyat stood strong.
"The BJP is forgetting that this is not Amarinder Singh, this is Channi. The attempt to muzzle Channi is a mistake. He will keep standing tall. The BJP is anxious with the good governance of Channi," Mr Chaudhary said.
Asked if Mr Channi is so popular, would he be named as the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress for the February 14 Punjab Assembly polls, he said, "That is not the question. The question is whether ED raids can muzzle Channi or Punjabis. Who will be the chief minister is secondary."
Mr Chaudhary said the ED raids are aimed at putting pressure on the Congress, but the leaders of the party will not be deterred by this.
"Arvind Kejriwal is working as the BJP's B team. Kejriwal unfortunately did not stand with Punjab during the prime minister's tour of the state. The ED raid is a weapon that is being used now. It was earlier used against Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav. Punjabis are intelligent. They will give their reply to the BJP in the upcoming polls," he said.
The Congress has cited a March 7, 2018 FIR lodged in a mining case at the Rahon police station in Punjab to say that none of Mr Channi's relatives was named in it.
Mr Surjewala said one Kudrat Deep was named as an accused, but the ED is raiding Bhupinder Singh Honey for being friends with Deep. Mr Honey is the nephew of Mr Channi's sister-in-law but his name is not there in the FIR, the Congress leader said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)