On Monday, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked him to join them. He claimed that the BJP asked him to leave the AAP to cause a split in the party, and also allegedly offered to close all the CBI and ED cases against the deputy CM.
Earlier today, the situation escalated as protests broke out outside Delhi CM Kejriwal’s residence in Delhi, which were reportedly led by Delhi BJP workers. Furthermore, BJP president Adesh Gupta was detained by the police amid the demonstration.
This comes as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) initiated a probe into the now withdrawn Delhi’s excise policy. On Sunday, the CBI reportedly shared a copy of the FIR against Sisodia, and other relevant documents related to the case with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as the agency is also likely to file a money laundering case against Sisodia. On Friday, the CBI had searched the AAP leader’s official residence and conducted raids at 30 other locations pertaining to the case of alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of Delhi’s excise policy.
The AAP has previously said that these allegations are politically motivated, claiming that the agency has been “asked from above” to harass its leaders. There was a 15-hour-long search conducted based on the FIR filed at the deputy CM’s house, and the residence of IAS officer and former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, among others. The 11-page FIR reportedly claims that Sisodia and others had forgone several procedural norms while implementing the liquor policy to receive monetary benefits from liquor licenses.
In a tweet posted in Hindi earlier today, the deputy CM claimed, “BJP’s message has come to me – break AAP and join BJP, will get all CBI, ED cases closed. My reply to BJP – I am a Rajput, a descendant of Maharana Pratap. I will cut off my head but will not bow down in front of the corrupt-conspirators. All the cases against me are false. Do whatever you want to.”
In retaliation, Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor reportedly said that the allegations are nothing more than fictional stories. “Nobody can compete with Manish Sisodia in writing such fictional stories. He should start writing Bollywood scripts, now that his political career is over,” he said.
On the other hand, AAP national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal also took to Twitter. Taking a jibe at the BJP, he said, “Rupee is falling, people are troubled by inflation, unemployment is at a high and these people are playing ‘CBI-ED’, and are busy toppling governments chosen by people and exchanging abuses and barbs the entire day.” He questioned, “Who do people talk to about their issues and whom should they go to? How will the nation progress like this?”
Manish Sisodia is among the 15 people and entities mentioned in the FIR lodged by the CBI, in relation to the alleged irregularities in the implementation of Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22. According to a CBI official, at least nine private persons were named in the FIR except for Manoj Rai, ex-vice president of Pernod Ricard. Look Out Circulars (LOC) have been issued against all private persons, excluding Sisodia. The agency also refuted the AAP leader’s claim that a LOC was issued against him, and said that only against eight “private” persons are mentioned in the FIR.
The CBI probe also alleges that liquor companies and middlemen were “actively involved in irregularities in the framing and implementation” of the excise policy. It was the Lieutenant Governor who had recommended a CBI probe into the case last month accusing the AAP of introducing the excise policy “with the sole aim” to benefit the private liquor barons.
Meanwhile, Sisodia has reportedly claimed that the case against him is fake and an effort to delegitimise Delhi CM Kejriwal, who has emerged as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In an interview with PTI yesterday, the AAP leader said, “The CBI should also investigate the scam of Rs 10,000 crore happening every year in Gujarat, where prohibition is in place but people are still dying by consuming illegal liquor.”
The deputy CM also asserted that his party is not afraid of the CBI probe and that the scams alleged by the BJP were nothing but lies. He added that the agency should also investigate the alleged scam in the 296 km Bundelkhand Expressway construction. The expressway supposedly developed cracks five days after the PM inaugurated it. “It has brought disgrace to the nation. There was corruption involved. You should investigate us and everyone else also. We are not against investigation or probe,” he added.
On Sunday, in another interview, the AAP leader claimed that PM Modi and the government want to scare his party members as they see them as a threat in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha election, while also accusing the former of “misusing” the central investigation agencies against political rivals. “PM Modi thinks about launching raids against his political rivals via CBI and ED all the time, while Arvind Kejriwal thinks about healthcare, education and employment,” said Sisodia during the interview.
“A BJP leader first alleged a scam of Rs. 8,000, then another leader claimed Rs. 1,100 crore fraud. Now, they are alleging a Rs 144 crore scam, but they will not find anything because there was complete transparency in the implementation of the liquor policy,” added the deputy CM. The AAP leader is also likely to be arrested in the upcoming days. “I am not scared,” he said, stating that it will not cause a shift in their party’s good work.
On the other hand, the BJP said that the Delhi CM is the “kingpin” of the excise policy scam. These remarks were made by the party’s national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia while addressing a press conference. “Roots of the excise policy scam will lead to the doorstep of corrupt Arvind Kejriwal. No one is above law and no corrupt person will be spared by the law,” said Bhatia.
The BJP spokesperson also launched an attack on the AAP-led government in Delhi saying that amid the second wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, while the BJP under the leadership of PM Modi was ensuring the supply of medicines and improving healthcare infrastructure, Kejriwal’s “corrupt pen” was busy signing the excise policy. Bhatia also called Kejriwal, Sisodia and the health minister of Delhi, Satyendar Jain, “hardcore corrupt” people, adding that health ministers in AAP-led Delhi and Punjab are also in jail on corruption charges.
This was following the BJP’s allegations that crores of rupees were given to the deputy CM to increase the commission from 2.5 percent to 12 percent under the new liquor policy. They claim that Sisodia received at least Rs 150 crores as a bribe. On August 21, BJP leader Pravesh Verma and Manjinder Singh Sirsa also held a press conference and accused Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter and MLC K Kavitha of acting as a “middleman” between the AAP government and the liquor mafia.
The BJP leaders reportedly told the press that several meetings were conducted between the liquor mafia, ministers and officers to make the excise policy. “The meeting was done in (the) Oberoi Hotel in Delhi. The Delhi excise officer, commissioner, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, some liquor mafia and some political persons were the attendants of the meeting,” said Verma. He added that KCR’s family members were also present in the meeting, and that she was the one who brought the members of the liquor mafia to meet Sisodia. Furthermore, they claimed that they had previously implemented the policy in Punjab, and planned everything with Kejriwal and Sisodia.
“Cheif minister Arvind Kejriwal and Excise Minister Manish Sisodia should explain why the commission of liquor sellers was increased by 10 percent. He should also explain the relationship between him and K Kavitha and the members of liquor mafia – Dinesh Arora, Vijay Nayar and Vijay Arora. And by collecting money from all this, Aman Dhal used to do the work of giving it to the Aam Aadmi Party. Which has liquor contracts in Delhi as well as Punjab,” alleged the BJP leader.
During the press conference, they also claimed that these meetings were held in Hyatt Hotel in Chandigarh, after which the AAP leaders implemented the same liquor policy in Delhi and Punjab, which is already being followed in Telangana and West Bengal. In a recent development, K Kavitha refuted the allegations against her and said, “I want to make it clear that all allegations against me by BJP are baseless. I’ve nothing to do with (the) ongoing Delhi liquor policy probe. BJP trying to malign the reputation of my family. We’re not those who’re going to step down, we’ll put up a fight.”
Meanwhile Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta described Sisodia as the “Liquor Minister” on Sunday. He questioned why the new excise policy was withdrawn within two hours if there is no corruption involved. “Delhi’s excise policy has proved to be a corrupt one. Arvind Kejriwal is the kingpin of this entire scam,” said Gupta while addressing a separate press conference. He added, “It is seen for the first time in independent India that the Education Minister is the Liquor Minister.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal has indicated that a large number of people are joining the AAP over the action taken against the deputy CM. “There is a lot of anger among the people across the country regarding the raid on Manish ji. A large number of people are joining the Aam Aadmi Party,” said Kejriwal in a tweet, in Hindi.
On the other hand, the Congress has also called for the deputy CM’s resignation in light of the CBI raids against him, saying that the AAP government should stop “hiding behind” the education policy debate when the issue at hand is about their government’s liquor policy. “The AAP should stop hiding behind the education policy debate. The fundamental issue here is the liquor policy and how Delhi has been converted into the liquor capital of the country,” said Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate while addressing a press conference.
Notably, both Kejriwal and Sisodia are currently visiting poll-bound Gujarat for two days, to campaign for the upcoming assembly election later this year. “On Monday, Manish ji and I will go to Gujarat for two days to guarantee education and health. Like Delhi, Gujarat will also have good schools, good hospitals and Mohalla clinics. Everyone will get a free education and good treatment. People will be relieved, we will also interact with youth,” said Kejriwal in a tweet. They are also scheduled to address two town hall meetings, one in Himmatnagar and another in Bhavnagar, on Tuesday.