Raipur: At Chhattisgarh’s capital city, the use of central agencies by the BJP government at the centre has perhaps reached the zenith of its controversy as chief minister Bhupesh Baghel’s entire coterie including some of the topmost ranking officers in the state have been raided.
All at once, Income Tax teams from Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad descended on Raipur on Thursday morning when the entire administration was busy with the ongoing Budget session and proceeded to raid the houses and premises of former chief secretary and present RERA chairman Vivek Dhand, IAS officer Anil Tuteja, liquor baron Amolak Bhatia, Raipur mayor Ejaz Dhebar and Officer on Special Duty (excise) A.P. Tripathi.
Dhand is now the first chief secretary to be subjected to a raid in the history of the original Madhya Pradesh cadre.
The IT teams extended their raids to Friday to include the single most powerful bureaucrat in the state — deputy secretary to Baghel, Soumya Chaurasia. Chief minister’s OSD Markam and his closest associate Vijay Bhatia have also been included in the raids.
Only the chief minister’s largely out-of-work advisors have been raided.
The chief minister has called this the height of revenge politics. In a tweet, he said that he has submitted a memorandum to the Governor seeking protection and intervention.
दो दिनों से कथित आयकर छापे के नाम पर छत्तीसगढ़ में दहशत का माहौल है।
केंद्र की भाजपा सरकार छत्तीसगढ़ की सरकार को अस्थिर करने का षडयंत्र कर रही है।
लगातार हार की ऐसी हताशा?? ये है असली बदलापुर।
हमने राज्यपाल को ज्ञापन देकर संरक्षण देने और हस्तक्षेप करने की मांग की है। pic.twitter.com/5LiL117CEp
— Bhupesh Baghel (@bhupeshbaghel) February 28, 2020
Health minister T.S. Singhdeo has been quoted as saying:
“I believe it’s a legal issue and the departments have their own work to do.”
The Pradesh Congress Committee president Mohan Markam had the following observation to make on the raids.
“All those who have been raided had all been sitting on malaidar (prized) posts during the previous Raman Singh regime.”
Markam did not comment on the fact that these are the very same people who have been running the state for Baghel for the past year.
Ejaz Dhebar, who is widely known as Baghel’s political muscleman, became the mayor of Raipur against all odds with the chief minister’s backing. He, along with the whole of his family is believed (by the IT and ED departments) to be sitting on huge amounts of money. Six residences of the Dhebar family are still being raided.
Tuteja, who had been suspended following the NAN scam’s surfacing was reinstated by Baghel and made special secretary of Industries. He and his neighbour Dr A. Farishta have been raided together on the suspicion that they have been making collections on behalf of the powers that be.
Tuteja’s wife Meenakshi, who runs a chain of half a dozen beauty parlours has been included in the search along with all her premises.
A.P. Tripathi who was brought in from his parent department BSNL is believed to be a close relative of a senior officer in the Secretariat and has handled the excise tracking system. He has been included in the raids for his alleged money links to Netherland.
Amolak Bhatia had been crucial to the new excise policy and another businessman, Gurcharan Singh Hora, have been netted for their alleged role in running the liquor and real estate deals.
It did not stop here, three chartered accountants who have been handling the accounts of all those raided yesterday and today have also been included in the search. The raids have been carried out in Raipur, Durg, Bhilai and Bilaspur simultaneously.
The involvement of ED means that most included in the raids remain netted for a while now. All statements made and documents seized — especially from the CAs — can become powerful tools for harassment for years.
The raids are likely to go on for another day.