CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said that there was an attempt to put pressure and target him and his ministers as the polling day drew near, hours after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday raided multiple locations in the state, including those linked to a relative of him.
Premises linked to Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, a relative of Channi, were covered under the ED raids as part of a money laundering probe against the "sand mafia" and companies linked to alleged illegal sand mining.
Honey's alleged links with a person identified as Kudratdeep Singh are being investigated by the agency.
"When there were polls in West Bengal, such attacks took place on Mamata Banerjee's relatives. Now, in the same pattern in Punjab, ED is trying to put pressure, give trouble. An attempt is being made to create all kinds of pressure," Channi alleged while interacting with reporters.
"Not just on the ministers, chief minister, but pressure is being created on every Congress worker. Such an atmosphere is not good for democracy. When elections are near, they thought about conducting ED raids. But we are ready to bear all pressure, all troubles which they give. We will carry on with our electioneering and they will not succeed," Channi said, hitting out at the BJP-led government at the Centre.
When asked how many places have been raided, Channi earlier in the day replied, "What I have heard so far is through TV (channels) and media, I don't have concrete information. But ultimately, it is an attempt to target me and my ministers."
The ED action, sources said, has been initiated after taking cognisance of a 2018 FIR of the Nawanshahr (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district) police and some other such police complaints against some companies and individuals alleged to be involved in illegal sand mining in the state.
When asked to comment on this, Channi said, "In 2018, I was not chief minister. As you are saying it is based on 2018 FIR, what is my connection with that, at that time I was not even chief minister. But somehow they have to target me and my ministers and attempt to put pressure, but let me say this that Punjabis never come under pressure."
Asked if he sees political vendetta behind the raids, Channi told reporters, "You know what all programmes happened during the past few days, and you and people know that very well, now this attempt to put pressure on me and the Punjab Congress will not succeed."
Opposition parties have earlier linked Channi with the dealings of Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, which the former had denied.
Voting for 117 assembly seats in Punjab is slated on February 20.
In Amritsar, when Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu was asked by reporters that premises linked to a relative of Channi are also being covered under the ED raids, he said, "A raid on anyone does not mean he is guilty till allegations are proved."
Hitting out at the BJP-led government at the Centre, he said such raids are arm-twisting.
However, at the same time, Sidhu said those who were raided will have to explain.
About the raids, officials said at least a dozen locations in the state, including Chandigarh, Mohali, Ludhiana and Pathankot, are being covered by the officials of the federal agency.
They are being assisted by armed personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The action is being undertaken under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The Congress on Tuesday accused the BJP and its government at the Centre of defaming Punjab and Punjabiyat by raiding a relative of Channi in an old case, and said the people of the state will give a befitting reply to the saffron party in the polls.
Chief spokesperson of the Congress Randeep Surjewala told reporters in Delhi that the BJP government is insulting a Dalit who was made the chief minister of Punjab and the Dalits and backward classes would not forgive the party for this.
The Congress has cited a March 7, 2018 FIR lodged in a mining case at the Rahon police station in Punjab to say that none of Channi's relatives was named in it.
Surjewala said one Kudratdeep Singh was named as an accused, but the ED is raiding Bhupinder Singh Honey for being friends with Kudratdeep.
Honey is the nephew of Channi's sister-in-law but his name is not there in the FIR, the Congress leader said.
Earlier in the day, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal attacked his Punjab counterpart over illegal sand mining following the ED raids.
"We have been repeatedly saying that in his (Channi) cabinet, there are people who are involved in illegal sand mining and Channi sahab himself is giving patronage to them," alleged Kejriwal whose Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is among the main contenders in the Punjab polls.
"Why Channi sahab did not throw them out from the cabinet? Why did he keep them in the cabinet," the AAP leader asked.