Khaira, Cheema spoke to SHO before, after FIR on Cong candidate: Punjab CM
The ruling Congress on Monday dragged senior opposition leaders into the slugfest over an FIR against its Shahkot bypoll candidate, Hardev Singh Ladi, for illegal sand mining. Breaking his silence on the issue at a press conference, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had spoken to the Mehatpur station house officer, Parminder Singh Bajwa, the night before the FIR and again in the morning; and so did Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Daljit Singh Cheema.
Giving call details, the CM said Khaira spoke to Bajwa at 11.30 pm on Thursday night. “The FIR was registered at 4.26 am on Friday. Khaira again spoke to the SHO in the morning. Cheema spoke to him at 6.30 in the morning. Clearly, the SHO was working at the behest of opposition leaders,” the CM said. Trashing the allegations against Ladi as “100% false”, Amarinder said the SHO broke the set procedures. “After investigating the matter, he should have sent a report to the Election Commission. But he registered an FIR. Does the Punjab Police ever register an FIR within half an hour?” the CM added.
Responding to a query if police officers under his regime were working under the influence of Akalis, Captain said, “100%” But he quickly added, “That’s just one out of a force of 80,000. The SHO was working out of personal vengeance against Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh who had got him transferred due to his immoral activities,” the CM said.
Admitting that they spoke to the SHO, Khaira and Cheema launched an offensive against the CM. “Is it an offence to talk to anyone on the phone and more so to a police officer? The CM said I spoke to the SHO at 11.30 pm; why didn’t he specify the duration of the call? I rebuked him for calling so late and spoke to him for not more than 15 seconds. Can you discuss anything meaningful in 15 seconds? The SHO called me next morning around 10 am to say he was under tremendous pressure to cancel the FIR. He also disclosed that he had sent his resignation letter to SSP, Jalandhar (Rural), and a copy on my WhatsApp too,” Khaira said.
He also alleged that the CM and his police were tapping phones of opposition leaders. “It is gross violation of our privacy, and is an offence. The CM has to clarify if he has ordered tapping of our phones. Is it CM-versus-SHO in this government now? He is stooping too low only to deflect attention from issue of illegal mining. Instead of probing the SHO, he needs to get the content of the FIR and the sting video against Ladi investigated first.”
Cheema said he had not called the SHO, but the latter has called him thrice so far. “He called me up before filing the FIR and after it. He was very disturbed and scared and said the entire Congress and the police department are after him. He called me up again today. As opposition leaders, we talk to everyone who calls. But is it becoming of a CM to leak our call details to the media and intrude into our personal lives? We will take up the matter with the EC.”
Both the leaders also alleged that the SHO was close to Rana Gurjit.
Rana, who had to resign as minister over allegations of irregularities in sand mining contracts, is seen as the political guru of Ladi and the force behind his getting the ticket despite having lost last year to SAD’s Ajit Singh Kohar, whose death necessitated the bypoll.“Why did this government post the SHO at Kapurthala and Shahkot later? Why was his name in the panel sent to the EC? It was Rana who had got him posted,” Khaira said.
Cheema said they had moved the EC when SHO Bajwa was posted at Shahkot after the poll code was enforced. “The EC had then asked for a panel of three names. He was again named in the panel and posted at Mehatpur. It shows he was among the favourites of Rana and Ladi. Their relations went sour after a sting video against Ladi surfaced,” Cheema said.
The CM, on the sidelines of his press conference, denied that getting the call details was illegal. “They can be obtained from the telecom service provider. We are not tapping phones,” he said.