Manish Sisodia | AAP’s Minister of everything

The former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, who is currently in jail, has been an integral part of the rise of Kejriwal’s party

Updated - April 24, 2023 11:57 am IST

Published - March 12, 2023 02:05 am IST

Mr. Sisodia, a three-time MLA and Deputy Chief Minister of the AAP governments formed in Delhi in 2015, and 2020, is a member of the Political Affairs Committee.

Mr. Sisodia, a three-time MLA and Deputy Chief Minister of the AAP governments formed in Delhi in 2015, and 2020, is a member of the Political Affairs Committee. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On February 26, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Manish Sisodia — Number 2 in both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Delhi government — and he has remained in jail since then.

Mr. Sisodia, a three-time MLA and Deputy Chief Minister of the AAP governments formed in Delhi in 2015, and 2020, is a member of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), the highest decision-making body of the AAP, and, most important, is a trusted deputy of party chief Arvind Kejriwal.

The party has strongly stood behind him since the arrest and taken the protest to the streets, television studios, and also the Supreme Court, seeking his release from what they claim is a politically motivated case by the BJP.

Also read: Sisodia’s arrest is a ploy to keep him in jail: Kejriwal

The son of a government school teacher, Mr. Sisodia was born in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh on January 5, 1972. After obtaining a postgraduate diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi, he worked as a radio jockey at FM radio stations. From 1996, he hosted many shows for All India Radio and worked for Zee News as news producer and news reader from 1997 to 2005.

While still working, Mr. Sisodia, along with Mr. Kejriwal, founded an NGO, ‘Parivartan’, which worked among the marginalised sections. In 2005, he quit journalism and the duo founded another organisation, ‘Kabir’, and Mr. Sisodia then worked for the passing of the Right to Information Act. But he came to the limelight as part of the India Against Corruption movement, led by social activist Anna Hazare, in 2011. Mr. Kejriwal was also a prominent figure in the movement.

The AAP was formed on November 26, 2012, against the wishes of Mr. Hazare, and Mr. Sisodia was a founding member. In 2013, the party came to power in Delhi for the first time, though short-lived — 49 days. Within two months of coming back to power in Delhi in 2015 with a huge majority — 67 out of 70 seats — the AAP witnessed an open, ugly spat with co-founders Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and others being expelled.

Many predicted that the AAP, born out of a protest, would not last long as a political organisation, but they were proved wrong when the party not just sustained power in Delhi but also expanded beyond its borders. Mr. Sisodia stood by Mr. Kejriwal and his policies, never making a statement against him.

The Kejriwal model

Over the years, the AAP’s electoral politics crystallised into a promise of the “Kejriwal model of governance”, peppered with Hindutva and nationalism. The party asks for votes in the name of “Kejriwal’s 10 guarantees” (manifesto) and Mr. Sisodia has always been overshadowed by Mr. Kejriwal — but he never complained or rebelled. For instance, when the party amended its constitution in 2021 to remove a term restriction, allowing Mr. Kejriwal to continue as the national convener, there was not a word of dissent.

On the other side, Mr. Sisodia emerged as the second most powerful man in the party. At the time of his arrest he held over 18 portfolios, including important departments such as education, health, finance and public works.

As Mr. Kejriwal fanned out to campaign for the party in other States on the promise of the “Kejriwal model”, which is built heavily on the work done in the field of education in Delhi by Mr. Sisodia, his trusted lieutenant held the fort in Delhi.

But that equation is now under attack.

In May last year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested a senior AAP leader and Minister Satyendar Jain and he has since remained in jail. He continued to be a Minister without any portfolio for about nine months. But when the Supreme Court refused to accept a plea by Mr. Sisodia to quash his arrest on February 28, within an hour, the AAP announced that both Ministers had resigned from the Cabinet. Till recently, the party’s view was that dropping a Minister would be acceptance of some wrong doing. But with Mr. Sisodia likely to remain behind bars for some time, the AAP wanted to send the message that the development work in Delhi is not affected.

Two other MLAs have been sworn in as Ministers and the AAP has been able to keep its flock together till now. But how much will Mr. Sisodia’s absence affect the AAP and Mr. Kejriwal? The coming months will tell us.

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