Opposition Congress calls it ‘cash for votes’ scam; CM Pema Khandu, state BJP president Tapir Gao deny allegations
Itanagar: Adding a new drama to the ongoing electoral politics in Arunachal Pradesh, election monitoring officials on Tuesday night seized cash amounting to Rs 1.8 crore from two vehicles at Pasighat in East Siang district.
Interestingly, one of the vehicles belongs to Christopher Perme, the son of Dr D Perme, an aspiring MLA candidate of the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the Mebo assembly constituency, while the other to a former Congress MLA.
The seizure took place hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to address a rally at the district headquarters, which is around 266 km from Itanagar.
Election officials and the district police carried out the raid at the Siang Guest House in Pasighat following the commotion created by a group of youths, who reportedly belonged to the Congress party. They claimed that huge sums of cash had been brought in one of the chief minister’s convoy.
Giving details of the incident, additional chief electoral officer (CEO) Kangki Darrang said the seizure was carried out by the election officials and the police around 9:30 pm and in presence of election observer.
Darrang said that of the total amount seized, Rs 1 crore belonged to Christopher and Rs 80 lakh to former congress MLA Ralom Borang. He added that the duo is not associated with the BJP.
When verified, the white SUV (Scorpio) bearing registration AR-09B3797 was Perme’s private vehicle. However, the other SUV (white Fortuner) with registration AR-01K-0009 and from where Rs 80 lakh was recovered was deputed to the deputy secretary of transport.
Darang informed that Perme, later in an application submitted to the election nodal officer, has claimed that he was carrying Rs 1 crore to complete his two under-construction buildings and he had borrowed some part of money from one of his friends.
“Borang, on the other hand, has claimed that he was in possession of Rs 80 lakh to purchase a piece of land at Maryang and he also had borrowed some part of the amount on loan,” Darrang said. Darrang informed that the case has been handed over to the income tax department for further investigation.
Earlier, while contradicting to what Darrang said, state BJP president Tapir Gao while confirming the seizure of cash said the amount was recovered from Dr Perme’s vehicle and not from that of his son’s as later clarified by Darrang.
Gao said that the seized cash has nothing to do with his party and that it was Dr Perme's private money. “There is wrong perception among the public, particularly in the social networking platform that the cash recovered belongs to chief minister Pema Khandu or to me. This incorrect perception is created by the opposition party,” Gao said.
Gao said that the seized cash belongs to Mebo assembly constituency's BJP candidate and that the owner already accepted it and is ready to furnish all the relevant details about its source and purpose. He reiterated that the seized cash should not be attached to BJP in any way because the party has nothing to do with it.
On the vehicles used for the transportation, Gao said the vehicle from which the cash was recovered was not part of CM's convoy and that the video has wrongly projected that the cash was brought in CM's convoy.
Meanwhile, the Indian National Congress which was quick to react on the matter earlier alleged that a "cash for votes" scam was busted in the state with the recovery of cash from chief minister Khandu's convoy and asked the poll panel to register a case against Prime Minister Modi as well as the chief minister and his deputy.
The Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee also accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to woo voters and demanded that Khandu and state BJP president Tapir Gao be debarred from contesting the elections.
Congress general secretary Chera Taya accused Khandu of misusing the chief minister’s office as well as the people’s money and machinery. The BJP, which talks about bringing in corruption government in the state, has already started practising corruption even before the elections, Taya said.
When contacted, the East Siang district administration kept mum on the matter. While the district superintendent of police said he cannot comment on the matter, the deputy commissioner said she was too busy.
MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju told media persons that everything would be clear after the investigation. I don’t believe in using money and muscle power in the elections, he said.