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Congress leader Amarinder Singh questions govt’s motive in selective information from Swiss

Chandigarh : Congress Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha Amarinder Singh on Wednesday questioned the timing and motives of the Centre in seeking ‘selective information’ from Swiss authorities about the purported account details of his wife and former minister Preneet Kaur and son Raninder Singh.

Amarinder said despite his wife and son having already furnished all details and answers to questions raised by Income Tax department from time to time, the Government of India with an “obvious questionable motive” wanted to highlight this particular case. He alleged that the information is aimed at stalling the proposed reshuffle of Punjab Congress due to which the ruling BJP-Akali alliance in the state is feeling “threatened” and that is why the Centre is using “dirty tricks” and central agencies to “harass” him and his family.

The Amritsar MP is likely to lead Punjab Congress in the proposed reshuffle which is to be announced soon.

“The matter of ‘foreign bank accounts’ is pending before Income Tax Authorities since 2011 where it has been clearly stated that neither my wife, nor my son or me have any foreign bank account,” he clarified and pointed out that the Swiss authorities in their notification have nowhere stated that Praneet Kaur and Raninder Singh have Swiss bank account(s).

This notification is a matter of procedure to be followed in respect of individuals whose names are sent by Indian Government enquiring about accounts, he said. Amarinder alleged that it was clearly aimed by the BJP government at the Centre to help its beleaguered partner Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, which has been cornered in the recent past for multiple failures.

“This is a desperate attempt of the Govt/BJP to malign my image before 2017 Punjab polls without any iota of truth in the allegations,” he said.

The former Punjab Chief Minister pointed out that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who during the Lok Sabha election campaign had raised this issue and named him, in April 2014 at Barmer in Rajasthan, while addressing a poll rally. He said, at that time took, he (Modi) raised this baseless issue as the BJP had been cornered in Amritsar with the party finding its candidate Arun Jaitely, currently his finance minister, was trailing and was certain to lose, which he eventually did by a margin of over one lakh votes.

Amarinder alleged that Jaitley still cannot come to terms with his defeat in Amritsar and is pursuing this matter with a “vindictive mindset”.

“How come this issue of foreign accounts gains relevance or is brought into limelight before State Elections-first time in 2011 (before 2012 polls) now 2015 before 2017?,” he asked.

Amarinder added that with the Congress proposing a reshuffle in the party in Punjab the Akali-BJP combine feels threatened by him and have resorted to their old habit and “dirty tricks” of “using” the income tax department and other central agencies against their political opponents.

“No wonder all our opponents in Punjab, including the Akali Dal, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party are celebrating the selective leak, as if they have found us guilty of some grave offence,” he said, adding that he had reiterated time and again that his family did not hold any foreign account and relevant documents in form of evidence have been submitted before the Income Tax authorities.

His statement comes a day after Swiss authorities said India has sought assistance in the investigation into accounts allegedly held by former Congress minister Preneet Kaur and her son Raninder Singh.

Under the Swiss norms for ‘assistance’ in tax matters, which could involve sharing of account and other details, the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) of Switzerland also asked Kaur and Singh to file an appeal within 10 days for “exercise of the right to be heard”.

Meanwhile, ruling Shiromani Akali Dal on Wednesday asked Amarinder Singh “to quit politics and face the law of the land as an ordinary criminal for misusing politics as a shield for amassing corrupt wealth.”

“A person and family facing such grave allegations of personal dishonesty have no right to be in public life. As Chief Minister of Punjab, Amarinder had been misusing the trust of the people to defraud them of their hard earned money,” SAD leaders said in a joint statement issued in Chandigarh.

The leaders, including Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Prem Singh Chandumajra and Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal said their party “has asked the Centre to bring this money back to India and hand it over to the people of Punjab as it is their money looted during the tenure of Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister (2002-2007).”

The SAD leaders further alleged that “it was shocking that Preneet Kaur held the high office of the Minister of State for External Affairs (in the erstwhile Cong government) while she was actually carrying out money siphoning activities on behalf of her husband.”