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AAP in the CBI crosshairs: Delhi ministers face a slew of agency probes since 2015, several slapped ahead of polls

In a number of these cases so far the CBI has filed chargesheets, even as the agency has also closed several cases for lack of evidence.

sisodia raidsCBI officials raid Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia's residence in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI/Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

The CBI’s move to conduct a raid at Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s residence Friday in connection with alleged irregularities in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s now-withdrawn new excise policy has followed a string of investigations that the central agency has launched against the AAP ministers and their aides in various cases since 2015.

In a number of these cases so far the CBI has filed chargesheets, even as the agency has also closed several cases for lack of evidence.

In December 2015, ten months after the AAP had first stormed to power in Delhi by bagging 67 of the total 70 Assembly seats, the CBI raided the office premises of CM Kejriwal’s then principal secretary Rajendar Kumar in a case of alleged corruption. The raid had sparked a major row that saw a livid Kejriwal calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “coward and a psychopath” over it.

A year later, the agency filed a chargesheet against Kumar, alleging he along with other accused entered into a criminal conspiracy and caused a loss of Rs 12 crore to the Delhi government in award of contracts between 2007 and 2015. Its FIR also claimed that the officials had taken “undue benefit” of over Rs 3 crore while awarding the contracts. Kumar later took voluntary retirement from the IAS.

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Several investigations against the AAP government and its leaders were launched by the CBI in late 2016 and early 2017 in the run-up to the February Punjab polls in which the then debutant AAP was expected to do well. The AAP had then accused the Modi-led BJP dispensation of allegedly targeting it over its fear that the then ruling Akali Dal-BJP coalition would lose the Punjab elections. The polls were eventually won by the Congress with the AAP emerging as the largest Opposition party and the Akali Dal-BJP getting decimated.

Sisodia himself has been under the CBI probe in two cases before the Friday raids.

In June 2017, the CBI questioned Sisodia in connection with a preliminary enquiry (PE) it had initiated into the Kejriwal government’s “Talk To AK” campaign. The PE was, however, closed as the agency could not find any evidence to prosecute Sisodia.

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The CBI had in January 2017 initiated a PE in the matter on the basis of a Vigilance Department complaint. The “Talk to AK” campaign first came under the scanner after Delhi’s then finance principal secretary, Dharmendra Kumar, objected to the process of hiring an advertising agency to promote the programme.

According to the Vigilance Department’s complaint, the Delhi government had hired a consultant of a prominent public relations company to promote the “Talk to AK” campaign. A proposal of Rs 1.5 crore was prepared for the programme which was aimed at encouraging Delhi residents to directly interact with CM Kejriwal. The programme was likened to PM Modi’s monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat”, but it was not continued.

The Vigilance Department’s complaint said the Delhi government went ahead with this campaign despite the principal secretary’s objections and that the consultant spent the money, creating a liability for the government.

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In the run-up to the 2020 Delhi Assembly polls, on February 7, the day its campaigning ended, the CBI arrested Gopal Krishna Madhya, the officer on special duty (OSD) in Sisodia’s office, in an alleged corruption case related to GST irregularities.

First published on: 19-08-2022 at 06:09:14 pm
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