In a significant turn of events, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on Monday registered a criminal and corruption case against a senior BJP leader and the former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, along with four others. The development marks the sixth instance of a Minister from the previous Congress Government being booked in a corruption case.
The Vigilance Bureau has arrested three individuals in connection with the case — including Rajiv Kumar from New Shakti Nagar, Bathinda; Amandeep Singh from Lal Singh Basti, Bathinda; and Vikas Arora from Tagore Nagar, Bathinda.
The case was initiated based on a complaint filed by Manpreet’s political rival and Bathinda Urban’s former MLA Saroop Chand Singla against him and others.
The investigation into the allegations revealed that during his tenure as Finance Minister from 2018 to 2021, Manpreet allegedly used his political influence to purchase two plots, measuring 1560 square yards, in Model Town Phase-1, Bathinda, near the TV tower. This purported action led to a significant financial loss to the state exchequer, amounting to lakhs of rupees.
The investigation further uncovered that the former Finance Minister, in collusion with the officials and employees of the Bathinda Development Authority (BDA), manipulated the bidding process for plots in 2021.
Fake maps were uploaded to deter public participation in the bidding process, and the plot numbers 725-C (560 square yards) and 726 (1000 square yards) were incorrectly classified as commercial instead of residential. Additionally, plot numbers were omitted from the online e-auction portal map, and digital signatures of Balwinder Kaur, Administrative Officer of BDA Bathinda, were allegedly used for plot auctions without her consent.
During the investigation, it was also discovered that three bidders — Rajive Kumar, Vikas Arora, and Amandeep Singh — had their bids placed by a single person, that is advocate Sanjiv Kumar from the same IP address and location. Furthermore, both plots were purchased by the bidders in 2021 at a lower rate, which had been fixed during an auction in 2018, resulting in a financial loss of approximately Rs 65 lakh to the government.
Manpreet is alleged to have purchased both plots through agreements with the successful bidders, who were known to him before receiving allotment letters from BDA Bathinda. The former Finance Minister is also accused of transferring 25 percent of the earnest money in advance to the successful allottees, raising suspicions of collusion.
The Vigilance Bureau is actively pursuing the arrest of other accused individuals, and their involvement will be thoroughly investigated as the case progresses.
‘Those boasting about honesty are now trying to save their skin’, says CM
Taking a dig at Manpreet Badal, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann on Monday said that those who had previously boasted about their honesty were now seeking legal protection as they faced allegations of corruption. Emphasizing the distinction between merely speaking the truth and standing by it, Mann, in an apparent attack on Manpreet Badal, criticized leaders who had previously declared that they would accept any action taken against them but were now resorting to legal defenses to evade accountability.
“These individuals had deceived the public with their rhetoric while allegedly looting the state's wealth,” said Mann, vowing that they would be held accountable for their actions, and every embezzled rupee from the state's resources would be recovered. Mann urged Manpreet to face the legal consequences of his alleged actions rather than seeking refuge in legal protection. At the same time, he accused the former Finance Minister of being complicit in actions that had harmed the state, leaving its coffers empty for the welfare of its citizens. Mann vowed to ensure justice was served and the people's stolen resources were reclaimed.