Taking a diametrically opposite stand on the Punjab Congress's vociferous demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the multi-crore drug racket, former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Friday opposed the transfer of this case from the state police to the central agency, saying that it would mean playing into the hands of criminals and vested interests.
"Those who have vested interests are demanding shifting of the probe of this case to the CBI. We can't allow our police to be demoralised, and that too after the outstanding job they did by exposing the racket, and hand it over to some other agencies," the Captain said in a signed statement, endorsing the ongoing Punjab Police investigation into an unfolding, multi-layered drug mafia that has raised the political temperature in the border state.
Significantly, Amarinder's surprising stance has not only underlined a rift in the opposition Congress over the hot-button issue but is also sure to be music to the ears of the SAD-BJP government. The latter has been on the back foot in the face of an aggressive politico-legal onslaught by the Congress, which has been pressing for a CBI inquiry after arrested druglord Jagdish Bhola's bombshell incriminating Bikram Singh Majithia, powerful revenue minister and brother-in-law of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal.
While Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Partap Singh Bajwa has announced an agitation, beginning with a call for Punjab bandh on January 16, senior Congress leader and former Faridkot MP Jagmeet Singh Brar had filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court early this week, demanding a CBI probe into the drug scandal. The court has issued a notice of motion to the state government.
Reacting sharply to Amarinder's stance, Bajwa told Hindustan Times, "People are wise. Let them judge and analyse why the Captain has taken this position," while Brar described the former CM's move as "shocking and baffling."
However, Amarinder told HT on the phone: "I disagree with Mr Bajwa's stand on this issue."
Warning against taking away the investigation from the Punjab Police, the Captain said any such move of giving this case to some other investigating agency would amount to delaying, deviating and drifting from the right course it was going on.
"The police led by Patiala SSP Hardial Singh Mann has done a commendable job by busting the racket," the former CM said. "We must not seek a CBI investigation for the heck of it, particularly when the investigation is at a crucial stage." He further said: "Giving it to anyone else at this stage will mean playing into the hands of the criminals and vested interests."
Cautioning "all the leaders and parties" to exercise restraint lest they play into the hands of vested interests whose aim might be delaying and diverting the investigation towards a different end, the Captain said: "We have to be careful against the trap laid out by the main accused to shift the focus of the investigation, apparently in a smart bid to save his own skin."
Amarinder added: "I, as well as the people of Punjab, have full faith in the integrity and commitment of the police investigating the matter under the leadership of the Patiala SSP to take this investigation to the logical conclusion and punish all the culprits no matter how big and powerful they might be or how influential positions they might be holding."
The senior Congress leader reiterated that the state police must be given their due for busting the racket.
"After all, other investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) could not bust the racket, which was going on at such a large scale, and it was the Punjab Police who did it and arrested the kingpin. Was the NCB sleeping all these years?" he asked.
Giving this case to the CBI at this stage will mean playing into the hands of the criminals and vested interests…We have to be careful against the trap laid out by the main accused to shift the focus of investigation, apparently in a smart bid to save his own skin
Capt Amarinder Singh, former CM
People are wise. Let them judge and analyse why the Captain has taken this position. The AICC and Punjab Congress have taken a clear position that this is the fittest case which must be handed over to the CBI. What Amarinder has said are his personal views
Partap Singh Bajwa, Punjab Congress chief
I am shocked, baffled and surprised… Amarinder's stand is against the popular consensus among the people of Punjab who want a CBI probe… I don't know under what pressures the Captain is working but it has exposed the real ground on which he is and supporting Punjab Police on the issue. It is like sabotaging the campaign of the PPCC for a CBI probe. The Captain has made a mockery of all efforts being made by the party to dig out the truth
Jagmeet Singh Brar, former MP