Is Delhi Minister Anand’s exit from AAP only a tip of the iceberg ?

Jailed Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal found himself in deeper trouble with the Apex Court not giving immediate relief on his petition challenging his arrest by the agency, and his cabinet colleague Raaj Kumar Anand quitting the party, citing rampant corruption in the government, writes Pawan Kumar Bansal

It seems that the ghost of much-publicised excise-policy of the Delhi Government is haunting not only Arvind Kejriwal but also his government and his party too. After the Delhi High Court had dismissed his petition challenging his arrest by ED,  now the Supreme Court has also refused immediate relief on his petition challenging his arrest by the agency even as the Apex Court asked the ED to reply to the notice by 24th April.

Kejriwal’s dream of running the government from Tihar Jail where he is lodged in connection with liquor-gate scam has been shattered by Delhi government’s vigilance directorate by terminating his PA, Bibhav Kumar on the grounds that the prescribed procedure was not followed in his appointment and he was facing charges of preventing a public servant from discharging his duty and assault on him.

Kejriwal’s cabinet colleague, Manish Sisodia is already in jail and Sanjay Singh has been just released on bail in this scam. To add to his worries, the Enforcement Directorate has sought non- bailable warrants against party MLA Amanatullah Khan.

The resignation by Minister Raaj Kumar Anand alleging corruption in Delhi government has put Arvind Kejriwal in an awkward position, who has been playing a victim-card alleging that Prime Minister Narender Modi was planning to get his democratically-elected government dismissed as he was in the forefront of forming an anti-NDA alliance. Anand, who is facing a money-laundering case and the ED had conducted raids at his residence and other locations, came out with an indicting statement:  “AAP was formed to fight corruption, but it is now embroiled in it and it has become difficult for me to work as a minister.” He did not stop at that as he further alleged that the Dalits didn’t get respect in the party.

Meanwhile, Delhi BJP Secretary Bansuri Swaraj sharpened her attack by saying that Anand’s resignation testifies that both the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal had lost their credibility in Delhi while on the other hand, the Minister Saurabh Singh and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh tried to downplay the issue alleging that BJP was using ED and CBI for “breaking our ministers and MLAs”.

Ironically, Arvind Kejriwal who rose from an RTI activist to become the CM of Delhi by raising the issue of corruption in the Congress government is now being accused of indulging in corruption not only by his political opponents but by his cabinet colleague. Kejriwal’s arrest is expected to adversely affect the party’s campaign in Delhi and Punjab where it has a significant presence. According to political analysts watching the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party since its inception, Arvind Kejriwal is himself responsible for the present state of affairs. Due to his arrogance and dictatorial style of functioning, the Aam Aadmi Party lost important leaders, namely Prashant Bhushan, Kumar Vishvas and Yogender Yadav.

He even attracted the annoyance of the courts by frequently defying the summons of the Enforcement Directorate calling the move politically motivated. The courts have rightly pointed out that Kejriwal cannot question the provision of making someone an approver as during the hearing in court, he had tried to argue that those who have given statements against him to the Enforcement Directorate had been pressurized by the government by registering cases against them. It is felt that even if Kejriwal gets bail at a later stage, he will not be in a position to campaign against NDA nation-wide aggressively.

It is believed that the resignation of Minister Raaj Kumar Anand is only the tip of the iceberg and in future, the party may face more desertions under strategic moves of NDA. Some political observers feel that Kejriwal’s insistence on running the government from the jail has proved counter-productive. From jail, he tried to project his wife Sunita Kejriwal as his undeclared successor causing heart-burn within the rank and file of the party.

Ideally, Kejriwal should have tendered his resignation and left it to the party legislators to elect a new leader, feel the observers as they blame the Delhi CM for depending too heavily on the coterie comprising Raghav Chadda, Swati Maliwal and a few others. He also unnecessarily embroiled himself in a controversy by spending crores of rupees in the renovation of his official-residence contrary to his professed image of the common man. Akalis accused him of running the Punjab government headed by Bhagwant Maan through remote control. Now that Kejriwal is in jail and Raghav Chadha reportedly has gone abroad, Sanjay Singh and Bhagwant Maan have emerged as powerful leaders in the party.