NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge came out in support of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Wednesday over the ED raids against his relatives and said this "vendetta" will help the party emerge victorious in the upcoming state Assembly polls.
"ED raids on the relatives of Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi show how unnerved the BJP is about a performing and popular Dalit CM," he wrote on Twitter.
"People of Punjab are waiting to teach BJP and their B-teams a befitting lesson. Such vendetta will only lead to a landslide victory for Congress in Punjab," Kharge said.
Earlier, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said ED raids had become the BJP's favourite weapon as it had things to hide.
"Conducting an ED raid is BJP's favourite weapon because they themselves have things to hide. Not everyone is like you. We have #NoFear.#BJPFakeRaid," he had said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The Congress had dubbed the raids as "fake raids" to intimidate the party in the run-up to the February 20 Punjab polls, but had asserted that neither the party nor Channi would be cowed down by such moves.
It had also alleged that the ED raids were an assault on Punjab and Punjabiyat, while claiming that Channi's relatives had nothing to do with the accused in the case.
The ED on Wednesday said it has seized cash amounting to over Rs 10 crore, including about Rs 8 crore from a relative of Channi, during raids conducted in connection with an anti-money laundering investigation against illegal sand-mining operations in poll-bound Punjab.
In a statement, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said "incriminating" documents related to "illegal" sand mining and property transactions, mobile phones, gold worth more than Rs 21 lakh and a Rolex watch worth Rs 12 lakh were also seized during the searches that ended on Wednesday.
Opposition parties on Wednesday targeted the Congress government in Punjab over the ED raids and demanded Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi's resignation following the seizure of cash from the premises linked to a relative of the CM.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids were conducted in connection with an anti-money laundering investigation against illegal sand-mining operations in the poll-bound state.
Cash amounting to over Rs 10 crore, including about Rs 8 crore from a relative of Channi, was seized by the ED during the raids.
BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh demanded Channi's resignation "for patronising his family members in clandestine sand-mining in the state".
In a statement, Chugh alleged, "The ED raids have established that the Congress has been running sand mafias in the state under the nose of the chief minister".
Chugh debunked the chief minister's argument that it was Centre's retaliation against the security breach in Ferozepur during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit, saying the case was registered in 2018 after due inquiry when the Congress was in power in the state.
"The ED has only completed an investigation in a long-standing case," said Chugh.
The recovery of huge sums of money from the premises linked to the chief minister's nephew proves his involvement in the illegal sand-mining, he added.
"The chief minister should own the moral responsibility of the case and resign from his post," Chugh demanded.
Speaking to the media in Amritsar, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal said, "Recoveries of crores of rupees in cash made by the ED from the house of chief minister Channi's nephew has vindicated our accusation that Channi is part of the the biggest sand-mining mafia in the state".
Now, Channi has no right to stay on as the chief minister and should immediately resign from the post.
Aam Aadmi Party leader and party's co-in-charge of Punjab Raghav Chadha too accused Channi of being involved in illegal sand-mining.
Chadha said he had last month "exposed" how illegal sand-mining was taking place in Channi's Assembly constituency Chamkaur Sahib, but the chief minister did nothing.
Channi has refuted the claims made by the AAP leader.
Targeting the common man image which Channi has tried to cultivate following his elevation as the chief minister last year, Chadha said, "Chief Minister Channi and his relatives have earned crores of rupees from their association with sand mafia. He (Channi) pretends to be a common man but should answer where did his relatives got so much money from?".
"If such a huge amount is found from Channi's nephew's house, it is difficult to guess how many crores would have been seized if the raid was conducted at the chief minister's house" Chadha said.
"How many of his (Channi) relatives has he made millionaires?" he said.
Meanwhile, Channi has dubbed the raids at the houses and offices of his nephew to probe money laundering allegations linked to the 2018 illegal sand-mining case as "vendetta politics".
He said his nephew was not even booked in the three-year-old case.
The Congress leader has accused the BJP-led central government of hatching a conspiracy to trap him in the case in which raids were conducted by the ED at many places in Punjab.