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Punjab Vigilance Bureau starts probe against ex-minister Manpreet Badal

Finance Minister in the earlier Congress Government Manpreet Badal has been accused by Ram Sarup Singla of involvement in a transportation scam other financial irregularities (Pic. Courtesy ANI)

Manpreet Badal, former Punjab Finance Minister in the Congress government may be in trouble as Ram Sarup Singla, a former Akali MLA (now with the BJP) from Bhatinda has made a complaint against him to the Vigilance Department alleging that the ex-minister was involved in the transportation scam of the civil supplies department and other financial irregularities.

The Vigilance Bureau (VB) recently arrested former civil supplies minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu for piloting a scam worth crores of rupees in the transportation of foodgrains in Ludhiana. The fresh complaint by Singla adds to the list of bigwigs allegedly involved in the transportation scam.

Singla in his complaint to the VB alleged that Badal floated companies in the name of Jeeta, a driver of his brother-in-law Jai Jeet Singh Johal aka Jo Jo and constable Gurtej Singh attached as a gunman with his son Arjun Singh Badal. The for mer finance minister by using influence over Bharat Bhushan Ashu and other officials bagged most of the tenders in Bathinda for the transportation of foodgrains from 2017 to 2022.

He has alleged that the rates quoted by the Badal coterie were much higher than the prevailing market rates at the time thus putting the state exchequer at a massive loss. The vehicle registration numbers mentioned in the tender documents were allegedly not of trucks but private cars and two-wheelers.

According to sources, the Vigilance Bureau has taken cognisance of the complaint made by Singla and is making detailed inquiries into the matter to register an FIR.

Ironically, Manpreet Badal is remembered for his one persistent refrain during the Congress regime, “khazana khaali hai” (exchequer is empty).

Singla further alleged that during Manpreet’s tenure as finance minister a lottery sale contract was initially given for 62 crores but later after a “deal” with the contractor it was reduced to Rs 35 crore.

Singla also alleged that Rs 100 crore was “pocketed” in the solar panel scheme. The 1-kilowatt solar system units meant for poor families were available for Rs 35,000 each but they had been bought at an inflated price of Rs 1 lakh each. Moreover, no list of poor beneficiaries was prepared as the solar systems were installed at the houses of well-to-do friends of the finance minister, Singla alleged.

Manpreet’s first cousin and arch-rival Sukhbir Badal, former Deputy Chief Minister has also gone on record to allege that the former finance minister operated through his brother-in-law Jo Jo to amass wealth. During the Congress Party’s rule, the truckers carrying oil from the Bathinda refinery were made to pay what came to be known as an alleged “Jo Jo tax.”

Manpreet Badal did not respond to several calls made by India Narrative on his mobile phone to seek his comments on the allegations. He did not respond to a questionnaire sent to him for his comments either till late evening today.

The same questionnaire was also forwarded to his PA in the afternoon requesting him to revert with the comments of his boss but there was no answer.