The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia to appear before it on December 26 in connection with alleged money laundering in a Rs 6,000-crore drug racket case, setting off political tremors in the state and New Delhi.
Majithia is the brother-in-law of Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Badal. His sister Harsimrat Badal is a cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government.
The summons was sent to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) minister four days ago. The ED is expected to ask Majithia about his and his family's income and assets, and his alleged links with NRI drug dealers: Satpreet Satta, Parminder Pindi and Amarinder Laddi.
The ED's move has heated up political temperature in the state just before its winter session begins on Monday giving the opposition Congress ammunition to put the entire SAD-BJP coalition on the defensive.
"The coalition has lost the moral ground to remain in power. We demand that the entire Punjab government step down. What is the legitimacy of this government whose ministers are being summoned for patronising the drug mafia," leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar said.
The state BJP, SAD's ally in Punjab, didn't come to the rescue either and asked Majithia to step down.
Coming at a time when its relations with ally SAD have already soured, the Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma said the minister should resign to face the investigations. "If proved not guilty, he can again be appointed a minister," Sharma said.
But Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is ready to brazen it out. "Summons do not necessarily mean that he (Majithia) is guilty," said Badal. He, however, advised Majithia to appear before the ED.
Shying away from either demanding Majithia's resignation or raising the issue in Parliament, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh claimed the ED's move vindicated his stand against a CBI probe, which he said would have "delayed and derailed the investigations".
Majithia was connected to the case after Punjab police arrested the drug racket's king pin Jagdish Singh Bhola, a wrestler-turned-dismissed Punjab police cop.
Both have purportedly claimed during interrogation that the minister knew the drug dealers, Satta and Pindi, based in Canada. While Bhola named the minister as the "kingpin", Chahal stated that Satta and Pindi were given a gunmen and a car by Majithia during their stay in Punjab. The two have also claimed that Satta and Pindi were present at Majithia's wedding in November 2009.