BJP is using Enforcement Directorate to ‘defame and suppress’ Chhattisgarh government: CM Bhupesh Baghel

August 25, 2023 05:47 am | Updated 05:47 am IST - NEW DELHI

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

A day after the raids on his close political associates, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, in an exclusive interview, alleged that the BJP using the Enforcement Directorate to “harass” political rivals and asserted that the Congress will win 75 seats in the 90-member Assembly.

Edited excerpts

You described the recent Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids on your close associates, including the political adviser and two Officers on Special Duties, as a gift on your birthday. Do you feel more such ‘gifts’ are in the offing?

In the two-three days days, an Income Tax (I-T) team of 200-250 officials are going to come for fresh raids. Please note that I am saying in the next two-three days.

Are you making an allegation or you have some specific information?

I am saying this based on information and so far, our information has proven to be correct.

Don’t you think these raids and allegations of corruption will create a negative perception for you ahead of the elections? Senior officials have been arrested recently and BJP MP Vijay Baghel called your government “most corrupt” in the recent no-confidence debate in the Lok Sabha.

People of Chhattisgarh know who is right and who is wrong. The schemes of the previous government [Raman Singh government] were such that they would buy shoes and slippers, distribute mobiles and in everything, there would be commission-khori [taking commissions]. Some people would get ration cards while others wouldn’t. The previous government was one of commission agents. In the past four years and eight months of our government, we have transferred nearly ₹1.6 lakh crores to the beneficiaries. Whether it is a farmer, worker, unemployed or those who sell cow dung cakes, all of them have got direct transfer. The charge of corruption won’t make a difference to us in these elections.

BJP has fielded their Mr. Baghel against you in the Assembly elections in the Patan constituency. Will a Baghel versus Baghel contest make it tougher for you this time?

After yesterday’s raids, it’s not going to be Baghel versus Baghel. The other Baghel is on the margins, the main fight is versus ED and I-T. When the ED raids my OSD who looks after my constituency work, it’s like raiding a political worker of Patan. So, the fight is with ED and I-T. The main agenda is to defame and suppress the Chhattisgarh government. What are they doing right now? They go to the houses of the people [who are named in Enforcement Case Information Report [or ECIR] and seize their phones, confiscate cash, jewellery, and bank accounts and put them under some kind of house arrest for four-five days. Since they don’t find anything, they will start asking political questions like “what is your role or which party you belong to and so on”. It means BJP is not contesting but ED and I-T will contest. For the past three years, there have been over 200 raids in Chhattisgarh. Such things pose a threat to democracy and courts should take note of it and stop the harassment of people. It shows that the BJP is nervous as many people are willing to leave the party after wrong people were given tickets.

Are you confident that you will be able win the State again?

Our welfare schemes have ensured that 40 lakh people have come out the poverty line and we are confident that we will form the government and abki baar 75 paar [this time, we will cross 75 seats of the 90 Assembly seats].

While the Congress has always accused the BJP of politicising Lord Ram, in Chhattisgarh, the same charge is levelled against you.

The BJP seeks vote in the name of Lord Ram, we don’t seek votes because it is a matter of faith for us. We have promoted our local culture by promoting Ram van gaman path (retracing Lord Ram’s journey during his 14 years of exile), built Mata Kaushalya temple as it is one of its kind and organised a Ramayan mahotsav as Ramayan is recited in every home. If you go to Bastar and Sarguja, we have developed thousands of Devgudi and Mata Gudi, places that are sacred for tribals. We hold an international tribal dance festival every year and so on. Earlier, people only viewed Chhattisgarh through the prism of Naxalism, now they are getting to see our rich culture as well.

Aam Admi Party (AAP) is part of the INDIA bloc yet AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited Chhattisgarh for election campaign and offered 10 guarantees.

I think he may have gone for the 2024 polls, not for the 2023 Assembly elections. My party’s top leadership is participating in the deliberations of INDIA bloc, I am not. My boundary is limited to Chhattisgarh and it makes no difference, if someone comes or goes.

(With inputs from Shubhomoy Sikdar)

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