While the Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday questioned two Bharatiya Janata Party Ministers of the Punjab Cabinet, Manoranjan Kalia and Swarna Ram, in the Rs.1.5-crore bribery case related to a controversial land deal, the arrested MLA, Raj Kumar Khurana, resigned as Chief Parliamentary Secretary, citing “moral grounds.”
Mr. Kalia, who holds the portfolios of Industries, Local Bodies and Urban Development, was accompanied by counsel when he reached the sector 30 office of the CBI, where a restive crowd of BJP workers raised slogans in his favour, against the CBI and the Congress high command. Senior officers of the agency questioned the Minister for nearly an hour.
Later, talking to journalists at the headquarters of the party's State unit here, Mr. Kalia emphasised that he was neither avoiding the investigations nor was he named in the FIR registered in the case. He said he told the interrogating team that he had no knowledge about the case and had never dealt with the matter in any capacity.
Reiterating that he was innocent, Mr. Kalia ruled out the possibility of his resigning or seeking anticipatory bail. He expressed confidence that the truth would emerge soon.
Subsequently, Minister for Technical Education, Industrial Training and Social Security Swarna Ram presented himself at the CBI office, where he was quizzed for nearly two hours. He admitted that he had issued a note to the “concerned department” to look into the matter regarding the dispute over the land as well as the counter-claims made by the rival groups of the Punjab Automobile Mechanic Association (PAMA), in whose name the title of the controversial piece of land stood. He denied having made any demand on the issue.
On the complaint received from a person claiming to be the Secretary of the PAMA, Manpreet Singh, the CBI is said to have trailed and trapped Devinder Singh, an employee in the office of the Registrar of Firms and Societies, at the official residence of Mr. Khurana. Apart from some documents, the CBI recovered Rs.15 lakh and some blank cheques from his luxury car. The complainant has alleged that both Mr. Khurana and Devinder had demanded a bribe, which was to be shared between both the Ministers, to settle the case. Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal, who heads the Shiromani Akali Dal — a party which shares power with the BJP in the State — said it was evident that the CBI had acted in haste to implicate the BJP Ministers. BJP president of the State unit Ashwani Sharma said the CBI was acting at the behest of the Congress and the party had no faith in the probe. He said the party would stand by the Ministers, whose image was being tarnished for political reasons.
On the other hand, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) Amarinder Singh has demanded the resignation and arrest of both Ministers.
Reiterating that the Akali Dal-BJP government had lost the people's confidence, Captain Singh said it was time the people of the State were provided a new government through snap polls.