AAP-BJP political equation back to square one

Recommendation of CBI probe into Delhi’s excise policy further dents govt.-L-G relationship

July 23, 2022 03:30 am | Updated 03:30 am IST - New Delhi

Delhi L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

Delhi L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. | Photo Credit: File photo

Lieutenant-Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena’s recommendation for CBI probe into the Delhi government’s revamped Excise Policy on Friday seems to have sounded the death knell for the “mostly cooperative relationship” that the Aam Aadmi Party had been nurturing, “in public interest”, with the BJP-led Central government so far.

Though Mr. Kejriwal refrained from naming the BJP in his strong defence of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia following the development, AAP sources told The Hindu that the party’s political stance towards the BJP would revert to its aggressive tone of 2015, when, following a CBI raid at his office, Mr. Kejriwal had famously taken to Twitter against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The tweet still exists on Mr. Kejriwal’s timeline on the microblogging site.

Friday’s development also seems to have affected a virtual breakdown of the already contentious relationship between the AAP government and Raj Niwas, with Mr. Kejriwal “skipping” a routine meeting with Mr. Saxena in the evening, citing ill health.

As the news of the meeting cancellation spread, Delhi government sources argued that the L-G himself had “skipped” a similar meeting recently.

Raj Niwas sources immediately stepped in to counter the allegation, arguing that the L-G convenes such meetings and doesn’t need to “skip” them.

The July 8 meeting that the L-G had not been a part of, the Raj Niwas sources said, had not been “skipped”. The L-G was in Jaipur on that day to attend the Northern Zonal Council Meeting where Mr. Sisodia too was present, the sources said.

Corruption allegations

The report on the basis of which Mr. Saxena recommended the CBI inquiry, according to sources, cited “blatant decisions” that proved “mal-intent, malpractice and corruption prevalent at the highest level” when it came to the “Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22”.

“Financial quid pro quo at the top political level” has been alleged in the report, said sources, with Mr. Sisodia being accused of having “taken and got executed major decisions/actions” in violation of statutory provisions, resulting in “huge financial implications”.

“According to the report, he also extended undue financial favours to the liquor licensees much after the tenders had been awarded, thus causing huge losses to the exchequer,” a source said.

Mr. Sisodia, the source alleged, ordered the implementation of the policy despite not being authorised to do so, and, on July 14, “hurriedly convened” an urgent meeting of the Cabinet Ministers without circulating any ‘Cabinet Note’.

“Any decision by the Cabinet involving a policy matter should be brought to the advance information of the L-G and would hold ground only after his approval. This meeting was convened to decide upon a policy matter and was not of an emergency nature,” said a source.

“The government, in total disregard of every other segment of Delhi’s business and economy, singularly favoured the alcohol merchants by allowing a waiver amounting to ₹144.36 crore on tendered licence fee on account of COVID-19 pandemic,” the source added.

War of words

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta, while welcoming the recommendation for a CBI inquiry, alleged that the existing commission of 2.5% for liquor contractors was increased to 12.5%. “This means that 10% of the profit was directly passed on to the liquor mafia,” he said.

Union Minister of State Meenakshi Lekhi demanded to know the basis on which contracts were awarded to “a blacklisted company”.

Mr. Bidhuri questioned why liquor shops were allowed to open in all municipal wards in contravention of rules and the reason behind allowing serving of liquor till 3 a.m.

Mr. Sisodia, on his part, tweeted, “People have become disillusioned with PM Modi. Now the country has hope only in CM Arvind Kejriwal. As AAP’s influence grows across the country, there will be many more false cases. But now no jail can stop CM Arvind Kejriwal and AAP. The future belongs to AAP, the future belongs to India.”

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh alleged that the Prime Minister wants stop the “AAP march” by misusing the CBI, ED and Delhi Police.

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