Chandigarh: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP from Bathinda Harsimrat Kaur Badal Monday asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to investigate an alleged liquor scam in Punjab involving the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the state, claiming that it has caused loss worth “hundreds of crores” to the state exchequer.
Badal, a former Union minister, alleged that the scam was similar to the one that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were probing in Delhi, with some of the same people involved, and sought a probe by the two central agencies in Punjab as well.
She had also raised the issue in Parliament on 3 August and was told by the home minister to submit a representation.
In a statement issued Monday evening, Badal alleged that the Punjab excise policy “smacked of corruption” and had “caused a loss of hundreds of crores to the state exchequer.”
In a letter to Shah, Badal said, “The objective of the Punjab excise policy was the same as the Delhi one — to hand over the entire wholesale liquor trade to a few companies (in this case two), besides doubling their profit margins. The purported aim was to facilitate a quid pro quo under which there are allegations that hundreds of crores were passed back to the AAP government in Punjab and the AAP high command in Delhi”.
Wrote to home minister @AmitShah ji to demand a free and fair CBI and ED probe into the Punjab excise policy, which is a replica of the Delhi policy which is already being probed by the CBI and ED, and has caused a loss of hundreds of crores to the State exchequer.
— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) August 7, 2023
She added that the manner in which the policy was framed in Delhi had also compromised the official records of the state. “Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and the state excise minister are directly responsible for the same,” she alleged.
Meanwhile, reacting to the letter, AAP spokesperson in Punjab, Malvinder Singh Kang said that in the 10 years of Shiromani Akali Dal rule in the state from 2007 to 2017, the government had lost revenue worth Rs 25,000 crore due to the excise policy.
“The AAP government in Punjab has increased the revenue from excise by Rs 2,587 crore in just one year. On the other hand in the 10 years of your rule, you filled your own coffers, which needs to be probed,” Kang wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Badal in her representation had claimed that, since this was a matter of public importance, it was imperative to identify the extent of the loot of the Punjab state exchequer and ensure punishment of those guilty of the same.
According to her, a SAD delegation headed by party president Sukhbir Singh Badal had even approached the Punjab Governor on 31 August, 2022, and urged him to order an investigation into the Punjab excise policy.
The delegation, she added, had highlighted how the Punjab policy was framed by Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, MP Raghav Chadha and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann with the aim of “giving undue enrichment to the favourites of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the cost of the state exchequer.”
The SAD had appealed to the Governor to take action under Section 7 and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, for which he was empowered.
ThePrint reached AAP Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Raghav Chadha and Malvinder Singh Kang, the official spokesperson of the AAP in Punjab, via text messages for a response to the allegations. The report will be updated once a response is received.
Delhi and Punjab excise policies
Badal said the Delhi and Punjab excise policies had clear similarities.
“Both make it mandatory that L-1 licensees should not be manufactured anywhere in India or abroad,” she claimed, adding that these terms, including a condition that licensees should have a turnover of at least Rs 30 crore annually had effectively ousted the Punjab liquor traders from the business in the state.
She informed the home minister that these provisions were also against the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, and Punjab Liquor License Rules, 1956, that allowed competitive bidding. She also detailed how nearly the entire wholesale liquor trade in Punjab was handed over to only two companies.
The Bathinda MP claimed that SAD had revealed how preliminary meetings to frame the Punjab excise policy were taken by MP Raghav Chadha at Hyatt hotel in Chandigarh in a suite on the fifth floor. She alleged that following this, Sisodia hosted another meeting at his residence in Delhi on 30 May, 2022 at 4 pm, which was attended by Raghav Chadha with senior Punjab government officers.
“The final meeting to finalise all modalities was again hosted by Sisodia at his residence in Delhi on 6 June, 2022. All these details can be collaborated by seeking the CCTV footage of Sisodia’s residence as well tower location details of the persons involved”, said Badal.
(Edited by Richa Mishra)