Betting Operators’ Illicit Money Funds Chhattisgarh Poll Campaign: BJP Claims Congress Connection

Union Minister Smriti Irani addresses a press conference over an alleged payment of about ₹508 crore by a betting app to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, on November 4, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The BJP Accuses Congress of Using Hawala Money in Chhattisgarh Poll Campaign

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has leveled serious accusations against the Congress party, claiming that illegal betting operators brought in hawala money to fund the latter’s poll campaign in Chhattisgarh. The BJP has specifically targeted Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, alleging that he received a kickback of over ₹500 crore.

Unprecedented Evidence Points to the Misuse of Power

Speaking at a press conference, Union Minister Smriti Irani expressed astonishment at the evidence presented, stating that never before in electoral history had such clear evidence been observed. She accused Chief Minister Baghel of not relying on public support for his election campaign, but rather on funds derived from hawala and betting operators. Irani even took a dig at Baghel, saying that he played the game of betting while in a position of power.

Counter-Accusations Fly as Chief Minister Responds

In response to the BJP’s accusations, Chief Minister Baghel has countered by accusing the BJP of employing central investigation agencies to target him ahead of the upcoming assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, which are scheduled to take place on November 7 and 17. This tit-for-tat exchange has intensified the political atmosphere in the state.

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The Enforcement Directorate’s Investigation Leaves Chief Minister Vulnerable

Minister Irani defended the ongoing probe conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), stating that it is based on investigations by the police in Chhattisgarh, as well as Andhra Pradesh. She questioned whether Mr. Baghel’s conduct was placing his own government at risk. Irani also disclosed that illegal betting operators had given authorities more than ₹64 crore in “protection money.”

Accusations of Funding Congress’ Campaign and Kickbacks

Irani further claimed that there are voice messages and statements from the accused that link the use of betting money to fund the Congress’ campaign in Chhattisgarh, indicating kickbacks received by Chief Minister Baghel. These revelations shed light on the depths of the scandal.

Forensic Analysis and a ‘Cash Courier’ Statement Fuel Controversy

On Friday, the ED made a startling announcement, stating that a forensic analysis and a statement by a ‘cash courier’ have provided evidence that Mahadev betting app promoters have paid approximately ₹508 crore to Chief Minister Baghel thus far. The ED stressed that these allegations are currently under investigation, fueling further controversy.

As the state gears up for the assembly polls, these allegations and counter-accusations have injected a new intensity into the political landscape of Chhattisgarh. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s accusations against the Congress party, the Chief Minister’s defenses, and the ensuing investigation by the Enforcement Directorate are poised to have a significant impact on the electoral outcome and the future of Chhattisgarh’s governance.

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