Former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Friday appeared before the Vigilance Bureau in connection with a disproportionate assets matter.
Ahead of entering the bureau’s Mohali office at 11.10 am, the Congress leader slammed the state’s AAP government over his date of appearance being advanced and claimed that Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s regime was indulging in “vendetta politics”.
The vigilance bureau had initially asked Channi to appear for questioning on April 12. He, however, requested for another date to join the investigation, which the bureau allowed, asking him to appear on April 20. Later, the bureau advanced the date to Friday.
Asked about being questioned in the matter before he entered the bureau’s office, Channi said, “The probe is totally political. Let them do what they want.” Addressing a press conference before he reached the bureau’s office, Channi launched a scathing attack on the state’s AAP government and said he may be tortured, arrested or even killed but he is prepared to face it.
During an earlier media interaction in Jalandhar where he was campaigning for the bypoll to the vacant Lok Sabha seat, Channi had attacked the AAP government on a host of issues and alleged that it said it failed to meet the Dalit community’s expectations.
Channi on Thursday accompanied Congress candidate Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, who filed her nomination papers for the Lok Sabha bypoll.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Channi said, “I held a press conference (in Jalandhar) where I raised some issues. And when someone speaks the truth, the one who is a liar feels the pinch — that is what has happened with the AAP government.” The former chief minister was flanked by senior party leaders, including the Congress’ Punjab unit chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Harish Chaudhary and Partap Singh Bajwa. He also slammed the AAP government over his date of appearance date being advanced and alleged it was part of the dispensation’s “vendetta politics”.
“They summoned me on a public holiday when offices are shut. For torturing Channi, the offices have been specially opened and the day they have chosen is (the day) of Baisakhi and Dr BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary,” he said.
Channi said, “They may arrest me, beat me, torture me and send me to jail, do whatever you want. They can send me behind bars today, too. They can even kill me but I am prepared.” “Today is the day of Dr Ambedkar sahib, who taught us to struggle… Since my childhood, I have been habituated to struggles,” Channi said.
The Congress leader also asserted that he can not be stopped from raising his voice for the poor.
Channi also took on Mann who had last month hit out at Giani Harpreet Singh, the Akal Takht jathedar, for “provoking” people by issuing an ultimatum to the AAP government to release all Sikh youths nabbed during the police action against radical preacher Amritpal Singh.
“What the CM said against the Akal Takht jathedar, when I spoke against this and raised some questions, they (government) felt how could I raise (such) questions?” said Channi.
He said he wanted to ask Mann, “How did you speak against the jathedar of our (Sikh) community… the CM has so far not apologised before the Akal Takht jathedar.” Channi said he also raised the sacrilege issue and demanded justice.
“Amarinder Singh was our chief minister, we had nothing personal against him but we changed our government on these issues. We proceeded on the sacrilege issue later,” he said.
“I raised some issues of the Dalit community, I talked about the farmers and other matters,” he said and claimed that the government did not like the questions he raised.
The Vigilance Bureau has been inquiring into allegations of Channi amassing assets disproportionate to his known source of income. Last month, the bureau had issued a lookout circular against the former chief minister.
He returned to India towards the end of last year after spending several months in the US and Canada.
Channi, who was the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in the 2022 assembly elections, went abroad shortly after his party’s defeat in the polls.
He had contested from the Chamkaur Sahib and the Bhadaur assembly constituencies but lost from both.
Channi succeeded Amarinder Singh in September 2021 following the latter’s unceremonious exit as chief minister.