AAP’s communication in-charge, Vijay Nair was arrested by the CBI on 27 September as it investigated grave financial irregularities found in the Delhi government’s new excise policy.
CBI has named Nair as a co-accused along with Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia and 13 others.
Nair’s Rise: Within AAP And Beyond
Nair was the CEO of an entertainment and event management company, Only Much Louder (OML), which began operations in 2002.
He was only 19 when he set up the company. It was incorporated with a paid-up capital of Rs 1 lakh in Mumbai in 2006 and had two directors, Vijay Swaminathan Nair and Girish Makhanlal Talwar.
The private entity rose to fame with Nair bagging many Indian singers, musicians, stand-up comics and so on as loyal clients. The list of names associated with OML includes Vishal Dadlani, Vir Das, Kunal Kamra, AIB among others.
Nair was the mind behind the infamous AIB roast. Though the recording of the show was pulled down, Nair was satisfied with the eyeballs the controversial show grabbed and helped in increasing the popularity of those involved.
Nair has been described by AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal as an ordinary AAP member. However, a look at facts suggests he is far from ordinary.
By 2014, Nair was already part of a multi-crore business and was considered a mover and shaker in the music and comedy industry.
It was in 2014 that Nair met the leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party and began assisting the party in organising events that largely focused on attracting the young, while also helping them take care of their communications.
AAP, being a new political entity borne out of a massive anti-corruption movement, not only enjoyed goodwill generated organically but also leveraged Nair’s association with popular faces in the entertainment industry to project the party as a band of disruptors who entered politics to clean the system.
This is the time when many stand-up comics would not be hesitant in making jokes about all the mainstream parties, except the Aam Aadmi Party.
In a few years, Nair became an integral part of AAP’s internal team, and even charges of indulging and abetting sexual misconduct could not threaten his position within the party’s edifice.
During the MeToo movement, Nair was accused of sexual harassment. As per this report, Nair acted brazenly and with impunity as the CEO of OML. It said:
“Nair stands accused of abetting an environment that perpetuated sexual harassment, sexism and misogyny during his time as the CEO of OML.
Based on first-person accounts of women who had worked with him, The Caravan reported that Nair’s position as CEO “allowed him to act brazenly and with impunity.”
The article noted, “He asked a woman to get into a bathtub with him and told another at 2am that he needed a massage. He even sent explicit images—including one in which a man appeared to be ejaculating—to a woman, without her consent.”
One woman told The Caravan that Nair engaged in a sexual act during a work call with her without seeking her consent. Several young women who had worked with Nair said that he messaged them regularly and that they were unsure whether they could refuse his advances. In response to the article, Nair and OML had denied any wrongdoing.”
His company, OML, was called a “boy’s club” and was charged with ignoring complaints of sexual misconduct by its clients.
Despite such allegations, Nair’s political career with AAP did not end. Before every election, he continued to be AAP’s digital team’s go-to man.
Early Signs of Influence in AAP’s Inner Circle
In interviews, Nair admitted to enjoying being a businessman. It is also to be noted that Nair running an event agency had a say in a policy formulated by the AAP government.
In an interview, he admits to being part of the system and being able to impact the excise licensing policy. He is quoted as saying:
“When Zubin Mehta played in Delhi, they got the licenses within 20 minutes. That is unheard of in this country.
Generally, they would make you wait till the last hour before an event for the excise license, but we got it within an hour for NH7 without a single rupee going out. I have started seeing the benefits of being a part of the system and doing things.”
Involvement in Delhi Liquor Scam
Nair’s name has now come up in the liquor scam. A new liquor policy was withdrawn by the Delhi government once the Delhi LG recommended a CBI inquiry on the findings of the Delhi Chief Secretary's report.
According to officials, the report had shown prima facie violations, including deliberate and gross procedural lapses, to provide post-tender undue benefits to liquor licensees.
It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing a huge loss to the exchequer.
It has been reported that Nair was arrested for his alleged role in 'cartelisation' and 'conspiracy' related to alleged irregularities in the allocation of liquor licenses in the national capital.
The CBI FIR alleges that Arjun Pandey, an associate of Sisodia, had once collected about Rs 2-4 crore in cash from liquor businessman Sameer Mahendru on behalf of Nair.
It adds that Arun Ramchandra Pillai used to collect undue pecuniary advantage from Sameer Mahendru of IndoSpirit for onward transmission to the accused public servants through Nair, as per PTI.
Mahendru, too, has been nabbed by the police in the case.
Quid Pro Quo With AAP?
AAP’s assertion that Nair did not have any role to play within the government and was merely working as the party’s volunteer does not cut ice. He has admitted to having had a bearing on the government’s policy decisions, while he held clear commercial interests.
Despite being a man of money, Nair was able to carve out a close relationship with AAP’s top leadership. It certainly makes one doubt the quid pro quo arrangement that AAP and Nair must have shared.
Many questions remain answered. For instance, how did Nair, the businessman, leverage his closeness with AAP’s leaders? Was there any policy manipulation done to favour Nair’s financial interests?
The vociferous support that the AAP top leadership has extended to Nair after his arrest shows the tentacles of his reach within the party. Usually, the party would either distance itself from the accused or remain silent on the issue completely.
The case in point is AAP councillors Tahir Hussain and Nisha Singh caught for rioting and conspiring to cause violence. Like many others, the party has completely disowned the two of their own.
But, for Nair, AAP’s blue-eyed boy, the party is not ready to look the other way.
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