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Congress targets BJP Lok Sabha nominee from Surguja Chintamani Maharaj over 'coal scam'

Maharaj, a former Congress MLA, said he has no information about the issue and hence will not comment on it. He joined the BJP ahead of the last year's assembly polls after he was denied a ticket by the Congress which was then in power in the state.
Last Updated 04 March 2024, 17:17 IST

Raipur: The opposition Congress in Chhattisgarh on Monday targeted BJP candidate from the Surguja (ST) Lok Sabha seat, Chintamani Maharaj, and said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had named him as a 'beneficiary' in the alleged coal levy scam, but after joining the saffron party he got a 'clean chit'.

Maharaj, a former Congress MLA, said he has no information about the issue and hence will not comment on it. He joined the BJP ahead of the last year's assembly polls after he was denied a ticket by the Congress which was then in power in the state.

Chhattisgarh's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in January this year registered a case in alleged coal levy scam based on a letter by the ED which has been probing money laundering angle in the matter for the last three years.

The FIR named 35 people, including former state minister Amarjeet Bhagat, incumbent Congress MLA Devendra Yadav, former MLAs UD Minj, Gulab Kamro, Chandradev Prasad Rai, Shishupal Sori and Birhaspat Singh, IAS officers Sameer Bishnoi and Ranu Sahu, then-deputy secretary at chief minister's officer Soumya Chaurasia, as accused.

The ED letter to the ACB mentioned that these Congress leaders had allegedly received kickbacks from the money extorted in the alleged scam, in which an illegal levy of Rs 25 per tonne was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and middlemen when the grand old party was in power.

The letter also claimed that former Congress MLA Maharaj had received a kickback of Rs 5 lakh, but he was not named as an accused in the ACB's FIR.

'The ED investigated the so-called coal scam for three years and when it could not achieve anything, it wrote a letter to the state's ACB in January asking it to register an FIR in this matter,' Chhattisgarh Congress communication wing head Sushil Anand Shukla said at a press conference here.

In its letter, the ED also gave detailed information about this alleged coal scam and provided the names of some people against whom an FIR was asked to be registered, he said.

The ED also mentioned the name of the then-Congress MLA from Samri seat, Maharaj, as a 'beneficiary' of the alleged scam. Based on the letter, the ACB lodged the FIR, but did not name Maharaj as an accused, the Congress leader stated.

'Maharaj, who was a Congress MLA, has now joined the BJP and is the BJP's candidate from the Surguja Lok Sabha constituency. As soon as Maharaj was put in the Modi washing machine, all his sins were washed away. He became honest by wearing the lotus amulet,' Shukla remarked, attacking the ruling party.

'When a case is registered against 35 people on the basis of the (ED) letter, then why was Maharaj's name left out of the FIR? Is it because he has joined the BJP?,' he asked.

The Congress leader accused the BJP of misusing probe agencies.

'This is the character of the BJP, cases are filed against leaders of opposition parties by putting ED, IT, CBI in front and pressure is created and they are sent to jail. But as soon as that leader joins the BJP, all proceedings against him are stopped. There are many examples like Ajit Pawar, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Narayan Rane, Reddy brothers, Eknath Shinde, Ashok Chavan. Now, Chhattisgarh, too, has an example in Maharaj,' he said.

When contacted, Maharaj told reporters that he has no information about the issue raised by the Congress and hence will not comment on it.

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(Published 04 March 2024, 17:17 IST)

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