New Delhi: On April 2, a night before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to address an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh’s Pasighat in the East Siang district, Rs 1.80 crore was recovered from the vehicle of a former BJP MLA.
The vehicle, belonging to Dangi Perme, the former MLA of the Mebo assembly constituency, was parked within the premises of a guest house in Pasighat area when the raid was conducted by the Election Commission’s expenditure monitoring committee.
Sources claimed that the money seized by the EC at the Siang Guest House “came for candidates who got BJP ticket” and was allegedly brought there by the state chief minister Pema Khandu. Reports claimed that the vehicle was supposed to escort PM Modi during his visit to the area for the election rally on April 3.
Randeep Surjewala, Congress: Even as PM Modi addressed an election rally in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh today, a sensational ‘Cash for Vote Scandal’ is exposed where authorities found Rs. 1.8 crore from the convoy of BJP CM Pema Khandu & BJP Arunachal Pradesh President Tapir Gao. pic.twitter.com/wnbQ8XTUXN
— ANI (@ANI) April 3, 2019
On April 3, as Modi was addressing the poll rally at Pasighat, the Congress held a press conference in New Delhi, alleging that the money was meant to bribe attendees at the prime minister’s rally. Randeep Singh Surjewala, the Congress’ media cell head and spokesperson, released two two-minute-long videos of the supposed raid at the press meet.
The videos featured a team of EC officials recovering the sum in Rs 500 notes. The number plate of the vehicle seen in the videos was AR01K009. Local news reports said it to be registered in the name of deputy secretary of transport.
Surjewala said the raid was led by EC official Smita Kaur Gill. “Her observer code is R26172. Not only that, the deputy commissioner Kimi Singh was also present during the raid. She could be seen in the video along with the money recovered.” He said the raid was conducted at the complaint of a team of the local youth Congress.
“The deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police thereafter passed on the information to the income tax officer at Pasighat, Priya Ranjan,” he said.
Demanding resignation of Khandu, Surjewala called it a “black day in democracy” and asked, “What can be a bigger cash for vote scandal than this? Modi ji, tell us, Rs. 1.80 core was black money or white money? It came from which ledger of the BJP?”
The party also demanded cancellation of the candidature of Tapir Gao, the state BJP chief and the Lok Sabha contender from the East Arunachal seat, alleging that he was caught with unaccounted cash earlier too during the 2017 Manipur assembly polls.
The Congress leader also asked, “Does Narendra Modi want to win these elections by distributing black money? Late in the night, Rs. 1.80 crore was recovered during a raid from the chief minister’s cavalcade and at 10 a.m., the Prime Minister holds a rally there.” Quoting the Representation of People’s Act to term the recovery of such a huge sum of money as “corrupt practices”, Surjewala also took a jibe at Modi, stating, “Ek hi chowkidar chor hain.”
Kaling Tayeng, the state chief electoral officer, confirmed the local media reports about the raid and recovery of the amount from “some vehicles” at the guest house but added that the details from the district administration were yet to come.
He reportedly also said that since the deputy commissioner and police superintendent of East Siang district had been busy with the Prime Minister’s rally, they hadn’t yet sent a report about the seizure of money from the raid.
Speaking to local media, chief minister Khandu denied the allegations. He said, “‘Cash for Vote’ is practiced by Congress. I came to know about the incident this morning. The investigation under EC and Income Tax will reveal all the details. We have got the information that it was recovered from a BJP candidate’s car.”
Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu on Congress allegations: It’s absolutely wrong. ‘Cash for Vote’ is rather practiced by Congress party. Investigation under Election Commission will reveal all the details. We have got the info that it has been recovered from a BJP candidate’s car. pic.twitter.com/VOcxxseP3d
— ANI (@ANI) April 3, 2019
Tapir Gao reportedly said the money was recovered “from the private vehicle” of the BJP leader Dangi Perme and he and Khandu “are not involved” in it.
The state is going for simultaneous assembly and parliamentary polls on April 11. Though the state has a BJP government, a majority of the MLAs, including Khandu, were elected in the 2014 polls on Congress tickets. Since the model code of conduct has come into force, a large sum of money has been recovered by the authorities in various raids across the state. According to an Arunachal Times report, Rs 2 crore and Rs 27 lakh were recovered from across the state this past March 26.