Spirited battle: On AAP and the Delhi excise policy

AAP has a lot to explain of its excise policy, even if the CBI inquiry is motivated 

August 22, 2022 12:20 am | Updated 12:18 pm IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has accused Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and 14 others of corruption in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22 in the National Capital Territory. On Friday, the agency searched Mr. Sisodia’s house and also multiple locations in the country. Mr. Sisodia has said he expects the agency to arrest him soon. On July 21, Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena had recommended a CBI probe after the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government submitted a report alleging “ulterior motive of monetary gains” on the part of the accused in the implementation of the new policy, which the Delhi government then withdrew. The controversial policy which was rolled out on November 17, 2021 had privatised and liberalised the liquor trade, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government projecting a revenue increase of ₹9,500 crore. The report has accused Mr. Sisodia of “deliberate and gross procedural lapses” to give “undue benefits to liquor licensees” through the policy, and receiving kickbacks through clandestine routes, which the CBI is probing. AAP has claimed that the new policy made the liquor trade more beneficial for the public exchequer and consumers.

The merits of the case remain a subject matter of investigation, but hardly anyone expects the CBI to be impartial. The agency has been blatantly misused by the BJP and the Centre to target political opponents and States run by the Opposition. The BJP has been successful in putting its opponents on the defensive through CBI and ED investigations on a regular basis. The irony in this instance is that AAP has been a votary of strong central laws and central institutions to combat corruption, having transformed itself into a political party after beginning as an anti-corruption campaign platform. Its popularity in Delhi has curiously alternated with its principal opponent, the BJP. While AAP swept the last two Assembly elections in Delhi, the BJP won all seven Lok Sabha seats twice over during the same period. AAP’s welfare schemes in Delhi helped it replicate its popularity in Punjab where it won power, but is now struggling to govern. AAP’s strategy has been to tar all politicians — and politics itself — with the same brush while claiming to be the only incorruptible entity. Its attempts to reenact the script in Gujarat, the prestigious pedestal of the BJP where elections are due this year, were bound to invite the BJP’s wrath. But AAP has a lot to explain. It remains to be seen whether the holier-than-thou politics crafted by AAP survives the no-prisoners approach of the BJP, even as it tries to frame the 2024 general election as a contest between AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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