Sisodia’s arrest and resignation, a tough challenge for Kejriwal

The BJP-AAP political battle in Delhi has turned ugly with the arrest of Dy CM Manish Sisodia with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleging politics behind the arrest. It will be a tough challenge for Arvind Kejriwal to fill Sisodia’s spot in the Delhi government, reports Sunny Sharma

In a sudden development, Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain, a Cabinet Minister in Delhi resigned from the Cabinet on February 28 and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has accepted their resignations.  The resignations came after the Supreme Court declined to interfere in the case against Sisodia.  “Our doors are open, but we are not ready to entertain. This will be a very bad precedent,” Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said.

While Jain is already in Tihar Jail on alleged money laundering charges, the arrest of Sisodia came after months-long ongoing investigation into the Delhi liquor scam by several Central government agencies. The Aam Aadmi Party leader is accused of irregularities in the framing and implementation of the now-withdrawn excise policy 2021-22 in which several officials, businesspersons and politicians too are under probe. 

However, the AAP has denied all allegations of a scam in the excise policy. Calling the investigation politically motivated, it has launched huge protests against the BJP. In July last year, Lieutenant governor VK Saxena had recommended a CBI investigation into Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 after a report by Delhi chief secretary established prima facie violations of various acts and rules in addition to “deliberate and gross procedural lapses” to provide “undue benefits” to liquor licenses. The excise department is headed by Sisodia.

The Excise Department allegedly allowed a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore singularly to the liquor cartel on the tendered license fee under the excuse of Covid-19 pandemic. The department also refunded earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder of the licence of Airport Zone, when it failed to obtain NOC from the airport authorities.

Another allegation was that the excise department in its 8 November 2021 order revised the formula of the calculation of rates of foreign liquor and removed the levy of import pass fee on beer without approval of the L-G and the Cabinet, thus making it cheaper for retailers causing loss of revenue to the state exchequer. Some of the decisions, it was alleged, were taken by Sisodia without due approval.

The party has threatened protest demonstrations against the arrests and several leaders of AAP including MP Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai MLA, Rohit Kumar Mehraulia, MLA Dinesh Mohnia, MLA Kuldeep Singh and ex-MLA Sarita Singh have been arrested by Delhi Police to prevent any massive demonstration.

BJP is now targeting Arvind Kejriwal terming him the ‘real kingpin’ of the excise scam in connection of which Manish Sisodia was arrested on February 26 and their several leaders have said that ‘he may be the next’ to be taken action against. 

 In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal had said that during the last seven years, 167 cases have been against AAP leaders. But more than politics, it will be a tough challenge for Arvind Kejriwal to fill Sisodia’s spot in the Delhi government. Sisodia has been single-handedly looking after as many as 18 key departments. One of the most important and immediate challenges will be to present the Budget for the coming financial year. Sisodia has tabled eight consecutive budgets of the Arvind Kejriwal government since 2015.

The education department has schemes like Schools of Excellence, Parent Teacher Meetings for government schools, Buniyad scheme to strengthen the learning process of children.  The Mohalla Clinic project is one of the flagship schemes of Arvind Kejriwal. The project was conceived by Satyendra Jain and later handed over to Sisodia. The education department and health department will certainly feel the pinch.