PM’s Sharp Jab To Opposition’s Probe Agency Claims

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Hindi publication Hindustan (File).

New Delhi:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hit back at claims by the opposition – that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party uses central agencies to target rivals, particularly before an election – by saying only three per cent of the Enforcement Directorate’s cases are linked to politicians.

“Let me tell you a fact that is not discussed much. Of the corruption cases probed by the ED, only three per cent (are against) people associated with politics. The remaining 97 per cent cases are linked to officials and criminals,” the Prime Minister said in an exclusive interaction with Hindi outlet Hindustan,

The Prime Minister also emphasised his anti-corruption stance, saying, “Eliminating corruption has been a key priority of our government for 10 years”, and countered the opposition’s claim that action is taken only against rival political leaders or in non-BJP ruled states. “Steps are being taken even in states where the BJP is in power,” he said.

“The narratives you have heard – that it is only political corruption that we are after – are being circulated by people who are under the sword of investigative agencies,” he declared.

Mr Modi’s government is under heavy fire after ED action against senior opposition leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his former deputy, Manish Sisodia. Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader K Kavitha and ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren were also arrested.

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Mr Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and Mr Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha are both members of the Congress-led INDIA opposition bloc, while the BRS is led by former Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (K Kavitha is his daughter), who is seen as a fierce critic of the BJP.

Following the AAP boss’ arrest on March 21 – weeks before the 2024 Lok Sabha election – the INDIA bloc launched a fierce attack on Prime Minister Modi’s party, claiming it had acted out of fear.

Arguing against his arrest in the Delhi High Court, Mr Kejriwal – who will be in jail till Monday – said his arrest had been timed to disrupt the AAP’s election campaign in Delhi and Punjab. His allies – Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge and MP Rahul Gandhi – have lashed at out the BJP and Mr Modi.

Tamil Nadu’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, also an INDIA member, and Nationalist Congress Party veteran Sharad Pawar also reacted; Mr Pawar condemned the “vindictive misuse of central agencies to target the opposition, especially as general elections loom”.

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The centre, however, has rubbished such claims, insisting the agencies concerned are acting independently and in line with the Prime Minister’s goal of wiping out corruption at all levels.

READ | Congress Can’t Think Beyond Dynasty, Corruption: PM Modi

The Prime Minister, who routinely attacks the opposition, particularly the Congress, over allegations of corruption and accuses the party of practicing nepotism, also shared data to show the increased and varied scale of Enforcement Directorate action since 2014, when the BJP first came to power.

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“The ED has also arrested many corrupt officers,” the Prime Minister said.

“Assets worth thousands of crores (belonging to) corrupt bureaucrats and criminals linked to illicit funding and drug dealers have been attached. Before 2014, the ED attached assets worth only Rs 5,000 crore, whereas in the last 10 years that amount has increased to over Rs 1 trillion.”

The PM welcomed the increased amounts of money seized – “Rs 34 lakh in cash before 2014 and over Rs 2,200 crore under our government” – pointing out the funds could be used for the people.

“Imagine… if this money was invested in welfare schemes for the poor, how many would benefit… how many opportunities could be created for the youth… infrastructure projects can be launched.”

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