The bold move of the enforcement directorate (ED), financial investigation agency under the Union finance ministry led by Arun Jaitley, to quiz Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) powerful minister Bikram Singh Majithia in a multi-layered drug racket has raised the political temperature in Punjab dramatically.
The timing of the reported summons to the minister for probing the money-laundering angle to the case has put Majithia in a tight spot. There is palpable unease in the rank and file of the SAD, which is bracing for an onslaught from the Congress-led opposition in the short Vidhan Sabha session beginning Monday.
The primary charge against Majithia, brother of Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal (wife of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal), is his alleged association with Canada-based NRIs Satpreet Singh Satta, Amarinder Singh Laddi, and Parminder Singh Pindi, whom the ED has booked already.
This ghost of the drug scandal had been haunting Majithia since Punjab Police arrested alleged kingpin Jagdish Singh Bhola, a former wrestler dismissed from its service after remaining at large for more than a decade.
On January 6, while being taken to court, Bhola told the media that Majithia was the real kingpin, a charge he laid again when the ED interrogated him. Since then, this loaded bombshell of Bhola has triggered a political storm across Punjab.
“Those who want to settle scores by dragging Majithia…will never succeed in their evil designs. And if they feel that calling Majithia for inquiry will turn him guilty, they are daydreaming. The dust will settle finally for all times to come,” SAD troubleshooter and general secretary Maheshinder Singh Grewal has said.
Now, however, the chorus for the resignation of Majithia, who holds revenue and public relations portfolios, has become louder. The first major blow came on Sunday when the Akalis’ ally also demanded that for fair investigation, the minister took exit from the Parkash Singh Badal cabinet.
This surprising stand of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to provide the Congress with more firepower to pin down the SAD during the assembly session and intensify the “drop Majithia” tirade.
The ED leak a day before the session has ruffled the Akalis. General secretary Grewal, legislator Virsa Singh Valtoha, and other senior SAD leaders had the same opinion that “the timing (of the ED summons) smells of politics”. The Akali counter-attack will revolve around court directions to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) for recording the statement of former prime minister Manmohan Singh in the coal scam. “Does the Congress consider its former PM guilty? The ED also questioned the sitting Congress MP from Jalandhar, Chaudhry Santokh Singh, in the drug case. What action has the Congress taken against him?” are the SAD questions.
Already on the back foot, the SAD will be on thin ice defending Majithia, as the Congress and the BJP demand his ouster from the cabinet. Because Sarwan Singh Phillaur had resigned from the Badal cabinet this year after his son, Damanvir, on the basis of what Bhola had disclosed to the ED, was alleged to be involved in drug trade. Bhola had linked Damanvir with an arrested Delhi-based synthetic drug smuggler, a charge that is yet to be proved.
SAD president Sukhbir ’s line of defence has been that Phillaur resigned voluntarily, taking a high moral ground. The tough question staring Sukhbir and party patron Parkash Singh Badal is: why is the leadership is taking an opposite stance on Majithia?