Baghel on the Scent of a Scam
The probe into the alleged irregularities in Raman Singh’s tenure intensifies
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.
RAMAN SINGH HAS DARED THE GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE: “THEY WILL FIND NOTHING”
ON THE OFFENSIVE Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel