Baghel on the Scent of a Scam

The probe into the al­leged ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in Ra­man Singh’s ten­ure in­ten­si­fies

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

Fresh in­ves­ti­ga­tions or­dered by the new Congress state gov­ern­ment into de­ci­sions taken un­der the pre­vi­ous BJP regime have kicked up a po­lit­i­cal storm and pit­ted arch ri­vals, chief min­is­ter Bhu­pesh Baghel and his pre­de­ces­sor Ra­man Singh, against each other. Vig­i­lance agen­cies have been asked to re-ex­am­ine cer­tain as­pects of the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Ch­hat­tis­garh State Civil Sup­plies Cor­po­ra­tion scam and to probe ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in e-ten­der­ing and var­i­ous pur­chases made by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. The dis­tri­bu­tion of free mo­bile phones un­der the San­char Kranti Yo­jana, os­ten­si­bly aimed at in­creas­ing mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion in the state, is also un­der the scanner.

The Rs 36,000 crore civil sup­plies scam al­legedly in­volved pay-offs by traders to cor­po­ra­tion of­fi­cers and em­ploy­ees in re­turn for the gov­ern­ment pur­chas­ing sub­stan­dard rice for the pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem (PDS). Dur­ing the 2018 assem­bly elec­tion cam­paign, Baghel had promised to get the in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­pleted. After tak­ing over, he ap­pointed a 12-mem­ber spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion team (SIT) and moved out Mukesh Gupta, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau (ACB) that was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the scam.

The ACB had searched the premises of cor­po­ra­tion of­fi­cials in Fe­bru­ary 2015 and found more than Rs 3 crore in cash. Cases were filed against 18 of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing IAS of­fi­cers Alok Shukla and Anil Tuteja. Even­tu­ally, chargesheets were filed against 15 of­fi­cials. At the core of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a di­ary re­cov­ered from Girish Sharma, the per­sonal as­sis­tant to Tuteja, the cor­po­ra­tion’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. The Congress claimed that a di­ary read ‘CM Madam’, but it was not in­ves­ti­gated. Gupta had claimed the en­try re­ferred to the wife of a cor­po­ra­tion em­ployee.

After the assem­bly elec­tion, Tuteja wrote to Baghel that the ACB had not in­ves­ti­gated mat­ters thor­oughly and de­manded a fresh probe. Cit­ing the let­ter, the chief min­is­ter set up the SIT.

“The SIT is en­sur­ing that all as­pects of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion are cov­ered. How can some names men­tioned in the di­ary be probed while other ref­er­ences are left out?” Baghel told in­dia to­day.

For­mer chief min­is­ter Ra­man Singh has chal­lenged the gov­ern­ment to prove his com­plic­ity in the scam. “The (new) gov­ern­ment is be­ing run by one in­di­vid­ual. Let them in­ves­ti­gate all mat­ters, but they will not be able to find any­thing against me,” Singh said on Jan­uary 22.

In the e-ten­der­ing scam, the gov­ern­ment has asked the eco­nomic of­fences wing to regis­ter an FIR. A Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (CAG) re­port had pointed out that bids for ten­ders worth Rs 4,601 crore an­nounced by the Singh gov­ern­ment were placed us­ing the same com­put­ers through which the ten­ders were floated. This raised the sus­pi­cion that the de­part­ments un­veil­ing the ten­ders were in ca­hoots with the bid­ders.

Even as the in­ves­ti­ga­tions gather pace, Baghel, it seems, has more sur­prises up his sleeve. “I have just dusted a few files and there is an up­roar. There are many more to come,” he said in Raipur on Jan­uary 25.


ON THE OF­FEN­SIVE Chief Min­is­ter Bhu­pesh Baghel

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