C'garh CM asked to ban Mahadev app in Aug: Cong

The Congress on Monday accused the Centre of delaying the imposition of a ban on the Mahadev app, at the centre of a political row in poll-bound Chhattisgarh, despite Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel seeking action against the betting platform months ago. The party said the government acted against Baghel instead of praising him for his early demand for a ban on the app, and added the people will give a befitting reply to the BJP in the assembly polls for its actions.

The Centre has issued blocking orders against 22 illegal betting platforms, including Mahadev app and Reddyannaprestopro, on the Enforcement Directorate’s request, an official statement said on Sunday. Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar alleged the Chhattisgarh government did not send any request to block these platforms despite having powers to do so.

In a post on X, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the ED has been investigating the Mahadev app case for several months but it was “surprising” that it took so much time to ban it.

“The demand to ban Mahadev App was also first raised by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on August 24, 2023. Instead of praising him, the Prime Minister deployed ED against him,” Ramesh alleged.

The Union minister is “clearly lying” about the fact that Chhattisgarh government had not demanded a ban on the Mahadev app, the Congress alleged.

In the press conference held at the Congress headquarters on August 24, 2023, Baghel had called for arresting the accused and raised the issue of giving legal status to online betting by the central government by imposing 28 per cent tax, Ramesh pointed out and shared a video of the presser.

“The chief minister has been continuously asking questions for several months as to why the central government is not banning this betting app. He (Baghel) had said that perhaps the ban is not being imposed due to the greed of 28 per cent GST or did the BJP have any dealings with the app operators?” Ramesh stated in his post.

“The BJP government not only did not arrest the culprits in this case, but also protected the app operators by giving legal validity to their wrongdoings by collecting taxes,” he said.

“The people of Chhattisgarh are watching everything. The people of the state will give a befitting reply to these actions of the BJP by once again giving their mandate in favor of Congress in the assembly elections,” Ramesh asserted.

The action of banning the 22 illegal betting platforms follows investigations conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against illegal betting app syndicate and subsequent raids on Mahadev Book in Chhattisgarh, revealing the app’s unlawful operations.

The ED on Friday claimed that a forensic analysis and a statement made by a ‘cash courier’ have led to “startling allegations” that Mahadev betting app promoters paid about Rs 508 crore to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel so far, and that “these are subject matter of investigation”.

The Congress and Baghel have rejected the charges as politically motivated in view of the upcoming assembly polls.

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Harry Byrne

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