Tit for tat action by Kamal Nath Government

TIt for tat action by Kamal Nath Government

 

Assembly Election Results: Cong celebrates

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After the series of raids by the Income Tax officials on persons said to be close to top Madhya Pradesh Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Kamal Nath, the state government has launched a counter offensive against some former ministers and officials who were occupying key positions during the BJP rule.  The government, on Wednesday, got the State Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to register an FIR against “unknown politicians and bureaucrats” in the Rs 3,000-crore e-tendering scam.

Officers of five government departments and directors of seven private companies have been booked for forgery, IT Act violations and under Prevention of Corruption Act. The agency is expected to identify the politicians and bureaucrats, who allegedly benefitted from the scam – and a section of ‘blue-eyed bureaucrats’ of the erstwhile BJP government may be in the crosshairs.

“We have registered an FIR for further action. Arrests and raids will follow,” K N Tiwari, DG, EOW, told media persons. An alleged breach in the MP State Electronics Development Corporation (MPSEDC) software had led to the scam, forcing the government to revoke nine big-ticket tenders floated in 2018. Investigators believe the scam could be worth Rs 80,000 crore, if past tenders are probed.

The Congress government’s action is likely to open another political front in the already war-like atmosphere prevailing in the state, less than three weeks before voting. EOW was eagerly awaiting CM Kamal Nath’s nod for FIR in the e-tendering scam after Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) sent a ‘positive’ report on digital tampering. Ahead of the 2018 assembly polls, the Congress had attacked the then BJP government on the scam with Nath alleging that the scandal could be worth Rs 3,000 crore.

CERT-in has detected footprints of hackers, who infiltrated the e-procurement software. In its report to EOW last month, CERT-in confirmed that e-tenders were ‘modified’ through unauthorised access to the software. According to sources, CERT-in has sent the IP addresses of systems that were used to back three tenders (91, 93 and 94) floated by MP Jal Nigam. They have asked EOW to send logs and other details of six more tenders for further investigation.

The EOW, which was assigned the probe by former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, had sought technical support from CERT-in to trace the footprints of the ‘suspects’. The Congress had made the e-tendering scam a major issue during the 2018 election campaign, claiming it could be much bigger than the VYAPAM scam. AICC chief Rahul Gandhi had promised during the campaign that those involved in e-tendering scam “won’t be allowed to flee the country, like Vijay Mallya did”.

The then PCC chief and now CM, Kamal Nath had written to the Election Commission seeking its intervention, saying it was in public interest. No attempt had been made to find out the real beneficiaries of e-tendering scam in the bureaucratic and the political system, Nath had said.

Five scientists, lead by CERT’s special director Om Veer Singh, had collected 11 hard discs from MPSEDC-Bhopal between December 4 and 7, 2018 for forensic analysis. As political parties were anxiously awaiting poll results during that time, EOW kept it a secret.

The EOW, led by IPS officer Madhu Kumar, had confiscated nine TB data from MPSEDC as part of the probe. According to reports reaching here from Indore – the commercial and industrial hub of the state – static surveillance teams will be deployed at city airport and railway stations to keep a check on movement of unaccounted cash.

The Election Commission has declared Indore district as ‘sensitive’ in terms of flow of black money. A meeting of the enforcement agencies was organised at the collectorate on Wednesday. Presiding over the meeting, collector and district returning officer Lokesh Kumar Jatav reviewed the preparedness of the agencies.

At the meeting, Jatav asked monitoring agencies to keep extra vigil round the clock to ensure free and fair elections. The flying squad and static surveillance teams will keep a watch on the movement of cash and drugs. Agencies like narcotics bureau, income tax department, railways and airport authority, along with their regular work, will also carry out election-related work.

After enforcement of the election model code of conduct, a sum of only Rs 38.60 lakh has been seized in the district. The I-T department has seized a measly Rs 81,000 so far. In 22 cases, 10,000 litres of illicit liquor was seized by the excise department.

Collector Jatav said that banks have been asked to share information on withdrawals of more than Rs 10 lakh in a day with the district election office. Suspicious and extraordinary movement of cash will be monitored closely. The reports on expenditure monitoring will be shared with district election office through email. Representatives of railways, airport administration and narcotics departments were present in the meeting.

L S Herdenia is a freelance journalist.  Views are personal.

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