Anna Hazare has attacked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over Delhi government's liquor policy.
In his letter, Anna says that it was now clear that there is a difference between the speech and deeds of Kejriwal. This letter comes at a time when the AAP government has been facing serious charges of corruption.
One of the key figures of CM Kejriwal’s cabinet, Health Minister Satyendra Jain, is already behind bars in a case of money laundering.
Its Deputy Chief Minister, who holds the Education and Excise departments among others, Manish Sisodia, is now in the headlines for his alleged involvement in what is being called the “Liquor scam”.
Meanwhile, AAP’s Transport Minister, Kailash Gahlot, is facing an investigation into irregularities found in a DTC bus purchase process.
Defending the Corrupt
Kejriwal, who once used to roam around with a suitcase that he claimed contained evidence of corruption of former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, is now busy issuing honesty certificates to his tainted ministers.
When Delhi’s Health Minister, Satyendra Jain, was arrested in a money laundering case, Kejriwal claimed that Jain deserves “Padma Vibhushan” for his work in the health sector. He defended him by calling him ‘hardcore honest’.
Jain was accused of purchasing agricultural land in and around Delhi using hawala funds, while he was a public servant. The ED has been investigating the matter under the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act since 2017.
The agency attached assets owned by Jain’s family members and companies, owned, and controlled by him, worth Rs 4.81 crores.
It conducted raids on the home of Satyendra Jain and his associates, seizing Rs 2.85 crore and 133 gold coins. He was taken into custody and has remained under arrest since then.
Jain continues to remain a minister in Kejriwal’s cabinet.
When questioned on the Delhi government’s excise policy, Kejriwal was quick to announce that his deputy and Excise and Education Minister, Manish Sisodia was worthy of “Bharat Ratna”. He called him the “world’s best education minister”.
All the hyperboles aside, CM Kejriwal and his deputy are yet to clarify the reason for withdrawing a policy that was already in the works for the past few months. The withdrawal came as soon as the Delhi LG, VK Saxena sent the case for CBI investigation.
Saxena’s order was based on recommendations made by Chief Secretary of Delhi, Naresh Kumar, in April 2022. In his investigation, he found irregularities and procedural lapses in the policy formulated by the Delhi government.
The CBI filed an FIR naming Sisodia and 13 others for irregularities in the implementation of the new Excise Policy. Soon after, it conducted raids at the Deputy CM’s residence and other locations across India.
There are grave allegations of financial irregularities in the new excise policy implemented by the AAP government. However, Kejriwal is sticking to his stand of calling it a “BJP conspiracy” to halt the work of the “best education minister”.
While the liquor policy was in the news, news of CBI’s preliminary inquiry into the procurement of 1,000 low-floor DTC buses by the AAP government also cropped up. (Here is a detailed explainer of the financial irregularities found in the DTC bus procurement.)
After Jain and Sisodia, the investigation may put Kailash Gehlot, who is heading the Transport Ministry, in trouble.
Recently, Kejriwal shared a news report that claimed that the AAP government had been given a clean chit in the matter. However, he did not clarify why the government scrapped the deal after issuing the work order.
Master of Deflection
CM Arvind Kejriwal has earned the title of “ad-man”. His government spent Rs 488.97 crore in 2021-22 on advertisements, a 44-fold increase as compared to the ad budget in 2012-13.
Sensing a rightwing turn in Indian polity, Kejriwal has been quick to present his soft-Hindutva side. He has also been competing with the BJP to present AAP as the party of true nationalists, pinning his hope on short public memory, that would erase its past stances on matters of national security.
In a similar manner, Kejriwal hopes that by calling the corruption cases levelled against his government, a political conspiracy and raising the bogey of “Operation Lotus”, he could deflect the matter at hand.
As an attempt to cleanse his image of the corruption allegation in the liquor policy, Kejriwal took his fleet of MLAs to Raj Ghat for a photo-up.
The irony of the situation was aptly described by BJP leader Abhimanyu Tyagi: “AAP is earning money through corruption in its liquor (policy) and then trying to save themselves by using Bapu. They should have realised that Bapu was against alcohol all his life”.
Kejriwal also called a one-day assembly session to discuss BJP’s “poaching attempts” and marshalled out the entire opposition on a flimsy pretext.
Kejriwal’s Transformation as a Seasoned Politician
AAP attributes its inception to the anti-corruption movement of 2011, which was spearheaded by social activist Anna Hazare.
Arvind Kejriwal, who had once vowed that he would never join politics, soon jumped the gun. He based his political pitch on painting the entire political class as corrupt and power-hungry.
He posited himself as the only one capable of uprooting corruption. However, once elected to power, he left his activist persona behind and donned the garb of a seasoned politician.
From promising free power and water to wooing the minority vote bank, and even reciting Hanuman Chalisa to prove his Hindu credentials, Kejriwal did all he could to wrest power and maintain it.
Once he adopted the usual tropes, the anti-corruption plank took a backseat. He claims that under his reign corruption has been successfully defeated. However, a slew of high-level corruption cases has punctured the carefully built image of AAP.
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