Raipur: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s political advisor Vinod Verma on Thursday demanded an apology from three BJP leaders — Uttar Pradesh MLA Siddharth Nath Singh and two state party spokespersons — for levelling “baseless” allegations against him in connection with the alleged Mahadev Book online betting scam.
Addressing a press conference here, Verma said he has served a legal notice on the three BJP leaders and if they fail to apologise publicly for their remarks, he will file a defamation suit against them.
Besides Singh, the MLA from Prayagraj, the two Chhattisgarh BJP spokespersons under fire from Verma are Kedar Gupta and Anurag Agarwal. Singh has been appointed BJP central election media convenor for Chhattisgarh, where second phase of voting will take place on November 17.
In a statement here, Verma asserted the accusations levelled against him were a deliberate attempt to tarnish his reputation and demanded an apology from the trio.
Referring to a video of a person who identified himself as Subham Soni in the clip and claimed to be the owner of the controversial online betting platform, the CM’s aide said, “I don’t know any Shubham Soni, who claimed to be the owner of the Mahadev app, spoke about having links with some Verma. There are lakhs of Vermas in Chhattisgarh.” ‘As part of deliberate political move to defame me, BJP leaders claimed that Verma (named by Soni) is me and levelled baseless allegations against me,’ he said.
Pointing out that investigation into the Mahadev app has been conducted by the Chhattisgarh police, Verma said so far 72 cases have been registered and 449 people arrested.
Besides, 191 laptops, 865 mobile phones and assets worth more than Rs 1.50 crore and Rs 16 crore in bank accounts have been seized from people linked to the alleged scam, he said.
Based on the cases registered in Chhattisgarh, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) initiated an investigation, he said.
The Raipur police’s cyber cell had written to Google on October 12, 2022, seeking blocking of the Mahadev app following which the search engine giant removed the application from its Play Store, said Verma.
The Chhattisgarh police’s investigation revealed that the operators of the Mahadev app are Ravi Uppal and Saurabh Chandrakar (currently in Dubai). Subsequently, the police issued lookout notices against them, he said.
‘Since then, Chief Minister Shri Bhupesh Baghel has been continuously asking the Centre to arrest these criminals because they do not reside in this country and it is not within the jurisdiction of Chhattisgarh police to bring a criminal from another country. He has also repeatedly demanded a ban on the Mahadev app,’ Verma said.
Three days ago the Central government said it has blocked the Mahadev app.
‘But the interesting and surprising thing is that on the same evening a news channel showed that the app is still functioning and the betting game is continuing uninterrupted,’ Verma said.
The BJP on Sunday shared a video of Soni, an accused in the Mahadev Book betting app case, saying he is its owner and had the ‘proof’ of paying Rs 508 crore so far to Baghel.
Baghel has rejected the claim.
In the same video, Soni claimed he met the CM through ‘Verma’.
(Published 10 November 2023, 02:18 IST)