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ED conducts raids in Mayawati-era statue scam

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday conducted searches in connection with alleged irregularities of over Rs 111 crore in construction of memorials and statues in Uttar Pradesh during BSP supremo Mayawati’s tenure as chief minister between 2007 and 2012.

The raids are being seen in political circles as an attempt to silence opponents of the ruling BJP-led regime. The ED raids come days after the Central agency registered a case over money laundering linked to illegal mining during the government of Ms Mayawati’s ally and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Ms Mayawati has been one of the biggest critics of the Narendra Modi government. On Wednesday, she hit out at the Centre’s plea before the Supreme Court to return the land around the disputed Ayodhya site to its original owners. The BSP supremo is being seen as one of the biggest roadblocks in BJP’s aspirations to win a bulk of 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh due to her dalit vote bank.

Sources said the Central probe agency has filed a case in the statue scam under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognisance of a state vigilance department complaint of 2014. The raids were conducted at seven places, including premises of some officials in Uttar Pradesh and other private people, sources added.

The vigilance complaint was filed under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act and it pertains to alleged financial irregularities in the construction of memorials, including statues of BSP founder Kanshi Ram and the party’s poll symbol “elephant”. It was alleged that the said act “resulted in the loss of over Rs 111.44 crore to the government exchequer and unlawful gain to public servants and private individuals”.

The state government headed by Ms Mayawati had built memorials, statues and parks at a cost of over `2,600 crore in Lucknow, Noida and few other places in the state.

The UP Lokayukta had earlier indicted Ms Mayawati’s two cabinet colleagues — Nasmeedunin Siddiqui and Babu Singh Kushwaha, besides 12 BSP MLAs and several others for alleged “wrong-doings” in the purchase of sandstone for the memorials.

On Lokayukta’s report, the vigilance department lodged an FIR against them in 2014. The other persons against whom the case was registered include more than 100 engineers and officers of the UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam, Public Works Department and Noida.

Earlier this month, the agency had raided several locations in a money laundering case, registered to probe illegal mining in the state. The case has its links to Samajwadi Party chief Mr Yadav.

Mr Yadav and Ms Mayawati had recently forged an alliance to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh.  Interestingly, the BSP-SP alliance is in direct contest with the BJP in the electorally important state of Uttar Pradesh which is expected to hold the key to next government’s formation.

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