By Abdul Bari Masoud
The implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy, which went into force on November 17, 2021, has been the latest cause of brawl between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government. The allegations are flying thick and fast as both sides are attacking each other fiercely.
According to the CBI’s FIR on suspected corruption in the formulation and implementation of the excise policy 2021–2022, a liquor dealer paid `1 crore to a company run by a friend of Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
The agency named 13 people and two companies in its FIR registered on August 17 under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The agency conducted raids at Sisodia’s official residence in central Delhi and 30 other locations in seven states and Union territories.
In addition to Sisodia, who also holds the excise ministry, the CBI has named Arava Gopi Krishna, the previous deputy excise commissioner, Anand Kumar Tiwari, the current assistant excise commissioner, Pankaj Bhatnagar, and nine businesspeople as suspects.
However, Sisodia called the CBI case against him in the alleged excise policy scam “false” and said that the BJP was “scared” of the AAP’s “popularity” in Gujarat, where elections are due in December and that is why he was being questioned. He made the remarks ahead of his questioning by the central agency.
Countering this allegation, Sambit Patra, a spokesman for the BJP, claimed that although the AAP was founded with a commitment to combat corruption, it has since emerged as the “most corrupt party.”
“AAP is the biggest gimmick party. It was formed to fight corruption and its leaders turned out to be the most corrupt,” Patra charged.
Sisodia was again called by the agency at its headquarters on October 17. He was grilled for the whole day in connection with the excise case, in which he has been named as accused number one in the FIR.
He tried to connect his CBI interrogation with the forthcoming Gujarat elections, claiming that even if he is sent behind bars, campaigning will continue there.
Everyone in Gujarat has woken up and is now actively advocating for quality hospitals, schools, jobs, and electricity. He also added that the forthcoming elections in Gujarat will be a “revolution,” he added.
The BJP, however, asserts that the Delhi Deputy CM is merely attempting to divert attention from the matter at hand.
Earlier, when the CBI opened a case against him and several others for opening the liquor shops in the national capital, Sisodia revealed his “Caste” streak to the fore as a defence which corroborates the fact that AAP is doing Upper Caste-dominated politics under the garb of anti- corruption plank. The Kejriwal government failed to stand by with the Dalit minister, Rajendra Pal Gautam and he was forced to resign from the cabinet after BJP raked up the bogy of anti- Hindu for his participating in a religious conversion event. This is in contrast to Kejriwal’s unwavering support for Minister Satyendar Jain, who continues to hold office after being imprisoned on corruption allegations. As usual, the CM also remained silent when Parvesh Verma, the BJP MP, was caught speaking on camera asking for complete boycott of a certain community.
Although neither he nor the AAP had responded to the accusations, Sisodia’s main rebuttal was that he was a Rajput and even a direct grandson of Maharana Pratap! This is coming from someone who built a political career on the platform of the “common man,” or Aam Aadmi.
He also claimed the BJP had approached him with an offer to have all cases closed if he joined the party. As the charge carries currency in the backdrop of what has happened in Maharashtra.
“My reply to BJP – I am a descendant of Maharana Pratap and a Rajput. I am ready to get beheaded but can never bow down before conspirators and corrupt people… Do whatever you want to do,” Sisodia said in a tweet in Hindi.
He further claimed in a tweet that the BJP had offered to make him the chief ministerial candidate, “My message to the BJP on their offer to make me CM candidate – Arvind Kejriwal ji is my political guru, and I will never betray him. I did not come to become CM, my dream is that every child of the country gets a good education and only then will India become the number one country. Only Kejriwal ji can do this work in the whole country.”
However, the BJP dismissed the charges, saying the Deputy Chief Minister was making such comments as he did not have answers to the questions that people were asking him and was only trying to deflect from the corruption charges against him.
BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said it was evident that Sisodia and Kejriwal lacked the answers to the questions being posed by people.
“Mr. Sisodia says he will not bow and Arvind Kejriwal gives him a certificate of honesty. Recently, however, everyone who has got this certificate has ended up behind bars. Not only will he bow before the law after the investigation but his corruption will also stop,” he said.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur said the Kejriwal model had been exposed. “From Mohalla Clinic to Mohalla Theka, this is their model. Manish Sisodia is accused number 1 in the CBI case and the kingpin is Arvind Kejriwal,” he said.
However, Sisodia continued his attack on the BJP government by claiming that a Look-out Circular (LOC) had been issued against him by the CBI, which is looking into his suspected involvement in illicit activities involving the now-scrapped revised Excise Policy.
The Aam Aadmi Party then claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office had “fabricated” such tales in the media and withdrew the notice as a result of the “uproar of the public,” despite CBI sources confirming that no LOC had been issued.
You issued a Lookout Notice against me, claiming that Manish Sisodia is nowhere to be found after your raids were unsuccessful and produced nothing, not even a discrepancy worth a single paisa. What gimmick is this, Modiji? In Delhi, I can move about without restriction. Tell me where to go. Sisodia tweeted in Hindi, “Don’t say I’m nowhere to be found.”
“People see Kejriwal as an alternative to Modi in 2024 because he talks about health, education and employment. The BJP, CBI, Lt. Governor and Delhi Chief Secretary, all have single motive to stop Kejriwal otherwise, the 2024 (Lok Sabha polls) will slip out of their (BJP) hands,” Sisodia said.
After the AAP and Chief Minister Kejriwal won the Punjab election, he claimed that the lengthy searches at his home were part of a “script” to impede their political rise across the nation.
Despite claiming to be not opposed to investigations, the Deputy Chief Minister urged that the CBI look into the “excise revenue of 10,000 crore being looted every year” in Gujarat. “Gujarat is a dry state, yet people are consuming fake alcohol and dying as a result. This also needs to be looked upon,” he said.
Earlier, in a series of tweets, Sisodia said, “A completely fake case has been prepared against me. Nothing was found in the raid at my residence, a search of my bank lockers and inquiries made at my village. It is totally a fake case.”
Defending his deputy, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the case against Sisodia is “phony.”
“Nothing was discovered during the search of Manish’s home and bank locker. He is the target of a complete fabrication. He was imprisoned because he had to travel to Gujarat to campaign; however, the campaigning would continue. In Gujarat, everyone is supporting the AAP,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Even as the BJP termed Arvind Kejriwal, “the most corrupt” chief minister in the country, questioned why the Delhi government had reversed the Excise Policy when there was nothing wrong with it, and demanded the dismissal of Mr. Sisodia and Health Minister Satyendra Jain from the Delhi Cabinet.
In a press conference, Union Minister Thakur even called the Kejriwal Government a ‘drunkard government’.
However, AAP senior leader and MP Sanjay Singh retorted by saying that “the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 21.8% of the state’s overall revenue coming from the sale of alcoholic beverages and the BJP-led Karnataka government is the second drunken government. The sale of alcoholic beverages accounts for 20.6% of its overall revenue. The third drunken government, Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s, received 19.6% of its revenue from booze. They have amassed a drunken army and are now attacking the Delhi government. All of the BJP-run states have made enormous sums of money from the sale of alcohol in their jurisdictions, yet they have the nerve to label us drunkards.”
Speaking with Radiance, Singh said the BJP is calling Delhi excise policy a scam. They waived off `85 crore out of a contract worth `785 crores. It is more than 10 per cent of the amount and yet no investigation was conducted. They could not see any corruption in this case. And the BJP is to tell how much commission they get for giving a tax exemption of `5 lakh crore to a handful of billionaires.
The raids on AAP and other opposition leaders reinforces the common perception that Modi government is using agencies like CBI, ED and NIA, etc. to prod and terrorise politicians, social activists, and opposition leaders.
The people consider ED is the most fearful agency. Even though it was unable to prove the accusations it made against the people who were arrested, it still conducted a significant number of raids. Arresting the person and throwing him in jail is the straightforward goal. The dissident voices are sufficiently terrorised by this.
The way the ED and CBI have responded, according to a retired senior CBI official, suggests that several Opposition leaders and activists may be imprisoned in the run-up to the 2024 general elections.