With Sisodia in Jail, Will Kejriwal Be Next?

With Sisodia in Jail, Will Kejriwal Be Next?

by Aaina - Wednesday, March 1, 2023 12:43 PM IST
With Sisodia in Jail, Will Kejriwal Be Next?Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia
  • This is the gravest crisis in AAP yet. And it may soon engulf its supreme leader.

Two out of six ministers of the AAP government in Delhi have now resigned on the charges of corruption.

Both were considered part of CM Arvind Kejriwal’s close coterie and the AAP government's two pillars, handling the majority of the portfolios.

While Satyendar Jain was hailed by Kejriwal as worthy of 'Padma Vibhushan', Manish Sisodia was claimed to be nothing less than deserving of 'Bharat Ratna'.

These hyperboles were thrown at people when Jain was put in jail on charges of money laundering and Sisodia was facing an investigation in Delhi the liquor scam.

This rhetorical defence of ministers facing corruption charges, by a party formed on the plank of ‘fight against corruption’, raise doubt on the compulsions driving AAP and Kejriwal.

After all, he had posited himself and his government as “kattar imaandar sarkar”. However, with Sisodia caught in the CBI net with what observers say is substantial evidence and no legal recourse coming to his rescue yet, Kejriwal could have also started to weigh his options.

How long could he afford to keep Jain and Sisodia as ministers? The former continued to retain his ministership even after 9 months of being in jail. In fact, even videos of him enjoying five-star treatment in jail premises could not endanger his position within the government.

Sisodia, who held more than 18 portfolios including education, public works department (PWD), services, finance, power, home and urban development and so on, shouldered greater responsibility. He was, practically, the man who ran the Delhi government. Now, him behind bars, Kejriwal might be forced to do what he was elected for i.e., to govern.  

But that is not Kejriwal’s sole concern at the moment. With Sisodia gone, Kejriwal himself could be the next on the radar of the investigative agencies for his role in perpetrating the liquor scam.

According to the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) second charge sheet in the matter, a DANICS officer who served as Sisodia's secretary stated that he saw the proposals for the liquor policy for the first time in the draft Group of Ministers (GoM) report, which was handed over to him in March 2021. He was directed to prepare a report on the basis of the said document and was called by his senior to the residence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The DANICS officer stated that there was no discussion in the GoM meetings about giving wholesale business to private entities or fixing a 12 per cent profit margin.

Sisodia was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for this decision to increase the profit margin from 6 percent to 12 percent in the new policy.

According to the CBI, digital evidence retrieved from Sisodia's laptop revealed that the policy draft was sent to his phone via WhatsApp, implying that a third-party was formulating the policy and sending it to the excise minister.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) also claimed in its charge sheet that a close associate of Kejriwal arranged a video call between him and another person. Kejriwal referred to this person as "his boy" during the call and urged the associate to trust him. The ED further alleged that the same associate received a kickback of 100 crore rupees on behalf of AAP leaders, some of which was used in the 2022 Assembly election campaigns.

The AAP has dismissed these allegations as a BJP ploy to obstruct their work.

However, questions on the culpability of its leaders in formulating and executing a faulty policy to favour private players, allow cartelization and in return receive kickbacks at the expense of the exchequer, remain. These are serious allegations, which the AAP has no answer for.

With Sisodia's arrest and subsequent resignation, Kejriwal's problems are only going to increase.

Earlier, he would get away by not signing files, thus shielding himself from any blame. Although it is unlikely that Sisodia did anything without the approval of Kejriwal.

Equally, with two of his trusted aides in jail and facing uncertain political futures, it would be difficult for Kejriwal now to convince his ministers to operate like Sisodia operated.

This is the gravest crisis in AAP yet. And it may soon engulf its supreme leader.

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