Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of “exploiting” the recent state hooch tragedy to push their own political agenda with an eye on the next Assembly polls in the state.

Reacting to SAD leader Bikram Majithia’s statement accusing Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta of `shielding’ senior superintendent of police (SSP) Amritsar Rural, Dhruv Dahiya, over the latter’s alleged failure to act on a complaint against the liquor mafia, leading to the tragedy, the CM said there was no question or need of `shielding’ an officer who had an unblemished track record, including against drug and illicit liquor smugglers.

Amarinder said SSP Dhruv Dahiya had, in fact, been on his personal security team. “A person with links with mafia, as was being suggested by the SAD, could hardly be trusted with my security,” he quipped.

Contrary to what Majithia has been falsely claiming, the SSP had received no specific complaint from any citizen about manufacturing of hooch, said the CM. The SSP had absolutely no information about manufacture of illicit liquor or registration numbers of vehicles, as alleged by Majithia, he said.

In fact, said Amarinder, if there had been even a suspicion of the SSP protecting or conniving with the liquor smugglers, he would have been the first to take action against the officer, as he had done against five others immediately after the tragedy came to light.

Expressing shock at SAD’s continued attempts to seize the major tragedy for promoting their own vested interests, Amarinder said it reflected the appalling low that the party had touched in its desperation to connect with the people.

The CM said the entire supply chain in the hooch tragedy, originating from Ludhiana and moving via Moga to Tarn Taran, Amritsar (Rural) and Batala was unearthed from investigation which was conducted by Amritsar (Rural) under the supervision of the said SSP.

The CM said while smallscale manufacturing of illicit liquor had been going for years, with the police force under DGP Gupta, busting several modules in recent months, the lockdown resulting from Covid had spiked the demand for liquor due to non-availability of the same. Some of these liquor smugglers saw in this the opportunity to make a fast buck and started using all kinds of chemicals in the manufacture of the hooch, leading to the tragedy, he added. Recently, close to 120 people had died after consuming illicit liquor in three districts of the state.