The Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted searches on Wednesday at the premises of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s political advisor Vinod Verma and two Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) in Raipur and Durg districts, sources said. The searches were also held at the premises of a businessman in Durg district, they said. The exact case in connection with which the searches were being conducted was not yet known.
Reacting to the ED’s action, CM Baghel, who turned 62 on Wednesday, said in a sarcastic post on X, “Respected Prime Minister and Mr. Amit Shah! Thank you very much for the priceless gift you have given me on my birthday by sending ED to my political advisor, OSD, and close aides.”
Some paramilitary personnel were seen at the residence of the CM’s political advisor Vinod Verma in the Officers Colony at Devendra Nagar in the state capital Raipur and the houses of OSDs Ashish Verma and Manish Banchhor in the old Bhilai area of Durg. Security personnel were also seen outside the house of businessman Vijay Bhatia in the Nehrunagar area of Bhilai in Durg. Supporters of Ashish Verma and Banchhor gathered outside their residences and shouted slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre, accusing it of misusing central agencies against political opponents.
The ED has been investigating different cases in Chhattisgarh pertaining to an alleged coal scam, a liquor scam, irregularities in the District Mineral Foundation fund, and an online betting application. In the last two days, the ED conducted searches at several locations in Raipur and Durg, apparently in connection with online betting activities, according to sources.
In December last year, the ED arrested Saumya Chaurasia, a state cadre officer who was posted as deputy secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office, in connection with its investigation into the alleged coal scam in which, as per the agency, an “illegal levy of Rs 25 was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians, and middlemen. Two IAS officers, Sameer Vishnoi and Ranu Sahu, are among others arrested in the coal levy case.
Reaction to pre-poll surveys: Congress
The Congress on Wednesday said the ongoing Enforcement Directorate “raids” in Chhattisgarh were a reaction to the pre-poll surveys predicting a “massive rout” for the BJP and asserted that its government will not get bogged down by such “threats”. Reacting to the development, Congress’ media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said, “The ongoing ED raids in Chattisgarh are a clear reaction to all the pre-poll surveys that have predicted a massive rout for the BJP. Our pro-people Congress government will not get bogged down by such threats. We have the power of the people behind us.”