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ED raids an attempt to put pressure, target in poll season: Punjab CM

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Chandigarh, Jan 18: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said that there was an attempt to put pressure and target him and his ministers as the polling day drew near, hours after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday raided multiple locations in the state as part of a money laundering probe against the "sand mafia" and companies linked to alleged illegal sand mining.

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    Charanjit Singh Channi

    Premises linked to a person, identified as Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, are also being covered under the ED raids. He is stated to be a relative of Chief Minister Channi.

    "When there were polls in West Bengal, such attacks took place on Mamata Banerjee's relatives. Now, in the same pattern in Punjab, ED is trying to put pressure, give trouble. An attempt is being made to create all kinds of pressure," Channi alleged while interacting with reporters.

    "Not just on the ministers, chief minister, but pressure is being created on every Congress worker. Such an atmosphere is not good for democracy. When elections are near, they thought about conducting ED raids. But we are ready to bear all pressure, all troubles which they give. We will carry on with our electioneering and they will not succeed...," Channi said, hitting out at the BJP-led government at the Centre.

    When asked at how many places have been raided, Channi replied, "What I have heard so far is through TV (channels) and media, I don't have concrete information. But ultimately, it is an attempt to target me and my ministers." The ED action, sources said, has been initiated after taking cognisance of a 2018 FIR of the Punjab Police against some companies and individuals alleged to be involved in illegal sand mining in the state.

    When asked to comment on this, Channi said, "In 2018, I was not chief minister. As you are saying it is based on 2018 FIR, what is my connection with that, at that time I was not even chief minister. But somehow or the other, they have to target me and my ministers and attempt to put pressure, but let me say this that Punjabis never come under pressure."

    Asked if he sees political vendetta behind the raids, Channi told reporters, "You know what all programmes happened during the past few days, and you and people know that very well...now this attempt to put pressure on me and the Punjab Congress will not succeed."

    At least 10-12 locations in the state, including Chandigarh and Mohali, are being covered by the officials of the federal agency and the action is being undertaken under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

    Opposition parties have earlier linked Channi with the dealings of Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, which the former had denied.

    Voting for 117 assembly seats in Punjab is slated on February 20.

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