Rajat Sharma


AKb (1)As Chhattisgarh went to polls in the first phase today, the political attacks and counter-attacks have now centered on Mahadev betting app controversy. The promoter of this app has reportedly claimed that he paid Rs 508 crore in protection money to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. ED seized Rs 5.39 crore cash after raiding several locations last week, and seized more than Rs 15 crore in bank accounts. ED is going to issue summons to Baghel soon in this case, and the probe is moving ahead fast with several persons arrested. Since the chief minister is in the eye of the storm, gambling has become the centre piece of Chhattisgarh politics at this moment. On Monday, BJP and Congress Presidents made allegations and counter-allegations. BJP chief J P Nadda alleged that Congress government in the state is neck deep in corruption, while Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said that wherever the Prime Minister visits for poll campaign, ED and CBI follow him. Bhupesh Baghel, on his part, alleged that BJP leaders are behind the controversial Mahadev betting app and it was his government which first exposed this app. Baghel alleged that BJP leaders helped the app promoters to escape to Dubai. Mahadev gaming and betting app was launched in Chhattisgarh in 2020. The promoters left for Dubai, and when the probe began, it opened a can of worms. The driver, Asim Das, from whose residence ED seized Rs 5.39 crore in cash alleged that the money was meant for Chief MInister Baghel and that the owners had sent this money to help the Congress in elections. ED says, the owner Shubham Soni, on camera, has admitted that he sent Rs 508 crore to Baghel. ED has also arrested a state police constable Bhim Yadav, who visited Dubai several times in the last three years. His expenses were borne by Rapid Travels, connected to the app owners. ED says, both Asim Das and Yadav were in contact with the most wanted person, Shubham Soni. Soni has alleged in a video that it was CM Baghel who advised him to leave for Dubai. Till now, 3,033 bank accounts have been probed in connection with Mahadev app case. 1,035 bank accounts, having Rs 15.5 crore deposits, have been frozen. 191 laptops and 858 cell phones have been seized. The investigators believe the scam is in the range of several thousand crores. Those arrested and the promoter of the app are naming Bhupesh Baghel. This has caused worries in the Congress camp. Baghel says, this is an election conspiracy chalked out by BJP. He says, it was he who ordered the probe into Mahadev app, and 72 cases were filed, and nearly 450 persons were arrested. It was the state police which seized the laptops and cellphones. Baghel claims, he sought Centre’s help to extradite Shubham Soni, the owner, from Dubai, but the Centre has sent ED after him. He alleges, Soni’s video statement was made at the instance of BJP. One thing is clear: there was a huge scam in Mahadev app case, to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees. The app was going on for the last three years, which Baghel admits. As far as ED’s action is concerned, it relates to money laundering charges, and ED’s action is justified. The question now relates to timing. One has to admit that ED’s action during election time is going to add worries for Baghel and BJP may try to score points. Already, BJP leaders have gone to town over this issue. If Baghel alleges that BJP is misusing ED for political ends, he is not wrong. There was a time in the past when governments used to fear taking action at the time of elections, because the common voter could smell political vendetta and this could provide unnecessary sympathy for those, against whom action is taken. Modi government’s thinking is quite different. He is ruthless as far as corruption is concerned. The action becomes severe when election is on. Already, in Rajasthan, chief minister Ashok Gehlot is feeling the heat of exam paper leak scam.

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