Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi's nephew and several others were raided today by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with illegal sand mining, just weeks before state elections.
Mr Channi's nephew Bhupinder Singh Honey's home and at least 10 other places in Punjab were searched early this morning. Officers of the Enforcement Directorate, which investigates financial crimes, carried out searches in Chandigarh, Mohali, Ludhiana and Pathankot.
The Enforcement Directorate is investigating money laundering and is investigating several people with political links, officials said.
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.
"They are targeting me and trying to put pressure on me in view of upcoming Assembly polls. This is not good for democracy. We're ready to fight this. The same thing happened during the West Bengal elections," the Chief Minister said on the raids, denying any links to the case.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted:
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.
Amarinder Singh, who quit the Congress after being sacked as Chief Minister in September, alleges that all Congress MLAs are involved in the illegal trade of sand.
"If I start telling names I will have to start from the top," he had said last month. Mr Singh also told reporters that he had informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi about MLAs involved. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has emerged as a strong challenge to the Congress in Punjab, has also targeted Chief Minister Channi over allegations of illegal sand mining in his constituency. "It is sad that a relative of the Chief Minister is being raided for (illegal) sand mining," said AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal.
"We have been repeatedly saying that in his (Channi) cabinet, there are people who are involved in illegal sand mining and Channi sahab himself is giving patronage to them. Why did Channi sahab not throw them out? Why did he keep them in the cabinet?" he asked.
The Enforcement Directorate acted today on a 2018 case and a few more police complaints against companies and individuals believed to be involved in illegal sand mining.