Political Storm in Punjab as SAD Leader Named in Drugs Case Ahead of Assembly Polls

The opposition party accused the Congress government of "political vendetta" after Bikram Singh Majithia was on Monday named in a drugs case.

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Jalandhar: Barely weeks before the enforcement of the model code of conduct, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia was on Monday named in a drugs case, with the opposition party accusing the Congress of “political vendetta”.

A first information report (FIR) was lodged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act against Majithia by the Punjab Bureau of Investigation in Mohali on the evening of December 20.

According to The Tribune, the FIR accuses Majihtia of “knowingly allowing drug smuggling through use of his property or conveyance, financing the distribution or sale of drugs and hatching a criminal conspiracy for smuggling”.

Wrestler-turned-cop and alleged drug lord Jagdish Bhola accused Majithia of involvement in the drug trade in January 2014. This allowed the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to mount attacks on the SAD-BJP government. As the next election is on the horizon, the drug racket remains a key political issue.

During Amarinder Singh’s tenure as chief minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, MLA Pargat Singh, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and others had been demanding the arrest of the “big fish” involved in the drug trade.

Amarinder’s unceremonious exit from the post of CM in September this year was attributed to his failure to act against the drug mafia and address the cases of sacrilege. Even after Charanjit Singh Channi took over as chief minister, Sidhu – as Punjab Congress president – has continued to pressure the government.

Notably, on November 18, Bikram Majithia had moved the Punjab and Haryana high court, pleading that he be made party to the Jagdish Bhola drug racket case. Majithia said he was being targeted by political opponents and his image was getting tarnished.

History of the multi-crore drugs case

The drugs case dates back to 2012, when the Punjab police busted a drug racket in Fatehgarh Sahib district and UK-based NRI Anoop Kahlon was arrested. The police seized 26 kilograms of synthetic drugs from his house in Zirakpur in Mohali.

In 2013, boxer-turned-cop Ram Singh was arrested. During the investigation, he named Jagdish Bhola, after which he was dismissed from his job in 2013. Bhola was arrested for smuggling pseudoephedrine, a synthetic drug, from India to various countries including the UK, Canada, New Zealand and others in the multi-crore drugs case.

Later that year, SAD leader Maninder Singh Bittu Aulakh and businessman Jagjit Singh Chahal were also arrested.

The big twist and political storm in the drugs case came on January 9, 2014, when druglord Bhola, while being taken for hearing at a Mohali court, accused then Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia of involvement in the racket.

With this, the opposition Congress and AAP started attacking the SAD and BJP.

The government, however, gave a clean chit to Majithia. But another senior Akali leader – Sarwan Singh Phillaur, whose name had also appeared in the racket – was forced to quit the party.

In June 2014, the Patiala police arrested the businessman Chuni Lal Gaba hailing from the Goraya town in Jalandhar. After Gaba’s arrest, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also started probing money laundering linked to drugs. The ED officials summoned SAD, BJP, Congress leaders and the heads of various bodies.

By the end of 2014, the SAD-BJP government had come under acute pressure and on December 26, 2014, Majithia appeared before the ED in Jalandhar.

The drug racket emerged as a major poll issue in 2017. Both the Congress and AAP accused the SAD-BJP of pushing Punjab’s youth towards drugs, ruining lives and livelihood. The Congress won the elections with a clear majority.

Amarinder Singh formed a Special Task Force (STF) to probe the drugs mafia in March 2017.

A year later, the Punjab government handed over its report to the high court in a sealed envelope.

In February 2019, Jagdish Bhola and 19 others were sentenced to jail.

And on December 21, 2021, an FIR was lodged against Bikram Singh Majithia.

Representative image of Punjab police. Photo: PTI

Sidhu hails move, Badals say ‘political vendetta’

Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu hailed the FIR against Majithia. He said that after “credible officers” have been placed in positions of power and influence, “the first step has been taken”. For five-and-a-half years, the “corrupt system” run by the Badal family and Amarinder Singh did not take action against the SAD MLA, he claimed.

Meanwhile, SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal told mediapersons at Muktsar the chief minister’s duty is “not to be revengeful but to serve the people”. He said SAD was expected that Majithia would be named in the FIR. “They have changed three DGPs just to arrest Badals and Majithia, weaken the SAD and Punjab. Leave me, they had even registered a case against my wife… We will fight the battle,” he said.

Earlier, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal had at various political rallies claimed that Channi was forcing senior police officers to register false cases against his party leaders, including him and Majithia. Sukhbir, who was at Amritsar on Tuesday morning, said, “The FIR against Majithia was nothing but a panic reaction by the Congress to gain votes. We will fight a legal battle against it.”

AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema said that the STF report is lying with the Punjab government for more than four years. “There was no stay by the Punjab and Haryana high court on the STF report. But not taking action on the report and keeping mum on the drug issue indicates that the Congress government was trying to save the big drug lords in this case,” Cheema, the leader of opposition in the assembly said.

He accused Amarinder Singh of siding with drug lords, adding that taking action against an opposition leader days before the enforcement of the model code of conduct is simply “political drama”. By now, trials should have been completed, the APP leader said.

Ousted SAD leader Sarwan Singh Phillaur’s son Damanvir Singh, who also faced an ED investigation, said, “Der aye durust aye. Law should be the same for all. The police have merely registered an FIR against Bikram Singh Majithia.” He said Majithia should join the police probe.