A water crisis unlike one seen in recent years, an impending election in Himachal Pradesh, and scores of infrastructure projects in the pipeline. For the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi, the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) arrest of minister Satyendar Jain has come at a crucial time for the city.
The central agency arrested Jain on May 30 and got Jain’s custody for questioning. Earlier this week, he was sent to judicial custody. In all, the minister has been in custody for 18 days now.
Jain joined the anti-corruption movement headed by Anna Hazare in 2011 and went on to join the AAP when it was formed a year later. He is among party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s most trusted cabinet colleagues.
Before his arrest, Jain was heading the departments of health, home, power, industries, water, urban development, and irrigation and flood control. He was also in charge of the party’s election efforts in Himachal Pradesh, which is expected to go to the polls later this year. After his arrest, the portfolios were reallocated to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
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“Jain’s arrest is a blow for the government, for sure,” said a senior government official who did not want to be named. “While the Deputy CM is handling the departments for now, he already has a lot on his plate. Jain’s absence may not have hindered the day-to-day working of the departments that were under him, but projects that were in the planning stage have been hit for sure. Some work on the water font has also been taken over by the office of the Chief Minister since he is the overall head of the Delhi Jal Board. Daily supervision at a time like this, when Delhi is facing a water crisis and communication between Delhi and Haryana is key, is something that the city needs.”
According to an AAP MLA, who wished to remain anonymous, while political decisions are collectively taken by the Political Affairs Committee, the poll preparation in Himachal Pradesh has been affected because of Jain’s arrest.
“He had a packed schedule ahead of him because the state unit had been formed again in HP,” the legislator said. “The party has said it in the past too — these allegations and the arrest should be seen in the light of the upcoming polls in the state as AAP was getting a lot of traction there. The AAP is not a one-man show so the work will obviously continue on all fronts, but that does not mean the arrest has not created problems. Even in the government, there are people like the Deputy CM who are stretched thin.”
In January, Kejriwal said he had heard from his “sources” that the ED would arrest Jain. When Jain was arrested in May, Kejriwal said the same source had told him that the Centre was now planning to go after Sisodia.
“I would request the PM to put us all in jail together rather than picking us one by one and use all central agencies to probe us. Ask all your agencies to take out investigations against all of us at once. Get done with it once and for all,” he said.
Party sources said AAP leaders were on the back foot for now because of Jain’s arrest. “At present, all of us are just sitting back and letting the agency investigate. We are sure that in the end, Jain sahab’s name will be cleared. Till then, the party has decided not to engage any longer. We have already said what we had to and we stand by him,” said a senior AAP functionary.
Cases against Jain
The CBI case: In 2017, the CBI registered a case against Jain and others on the allegations that companies linked to him and his family members — Paryas Infosolution, Indo Metalimpex, Akinchan Developers and Mangalayatan Projects — allegedly laundered Rs 11.78 crore from 2010 to 2012 and Rs 4.63 crore in 2015-’16, when he was already a minister in Delhi government. According to the CBI, Jain, through his associates, gave money in cash to some Kolkata-based entry operators of different shell companies for accommodation entries. These entry operators allegedly then re-routed the money in the form of investment through shares in the companies linked to the AAP leader after “layering them through shell companies”. The CBI alleged that Jain had “active control” over the companies or held one-third of shares of these companies in his name or in the name of his family members or friends.
The companies did not have any “real business and are paper/shell companies” and were allegedly used to park black money of Jain and his partners Ajit Jain, Sunil Jain, and their family members in the form of investments in equity shares. The money received back through the shell company operators was utilised to purchase agricultural land worth Rs 27.69 crore between 2010-’11 and 2013-’14. The CBI also accused Jain of acquiring assets worth Rs 1.62 crore in his name and in the name of his family members, disproportionate to his known sources of income, between February 2015 and May 2017. In December 2018, the CBI chargesheeted Jain, his wife, and four others in the case.
The ED case: The ED case is based on the CBI probe and was registered soon after the bureau booked Jain and others under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The ED has recorded the statements of the Kolkata-based shell company operators who allegedly stated they met Jain in the office of a chartered accountant to discuss providing accommodation entries in his companies. Jain is accused of signing conveyance deeds for the purchase of agricultural land by Prayas Infosolutions in 2011 and 2012. As per the ED, the land was allegedly later transferred to the family members of Jain’s associates who denied knowledge about such a transaction. Jain is also stated to have submitted an application before Income Tax authorities that the income tax paid by Ankush Jain and Vaibhav Jain, alleged to be family members of his associates, under Income Disclosure Scheme 2016 may be adjusted against the demands raised in his individual assessments. According to the ED, it establishes that the IDS declaration made by Ankush and Vaibhav was made for Jain and the amount paid was his.
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