Rajat Sharma

How can you compare Sisodia’s questioning with Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom?

akbThe Central Bureau of Investigation grilled Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia for nearly nine hours on Monday and then allowed him to leave late in the evening. CBI may call him again for interrogation in connection with the multi-crore liquor scam in Delhi.

On Monday night, Sisodia alleged, “I was asked in CBI office to quit AAP, or else such cases will keep getting registered. … I told them, I won’t leave AAP for BJP. They said, they will make me the chief minister”, he said. This was promptly denied by CBI officials, who rubbished the allegation.

The CBI spokesperson said, “Sisodia was examined strictly on the allegations made in the FIR and on the evidence collected so far during the investigation. His statement will be verified and further action will be taken as per requirement. CBI strongly refutes allegations made by the accused. The examination was carried out in a legal manner, strictly as per the allegations made against him the FIR”.

According to CBI sources, Sisodia was questioned about his connections with liquor businessmen Amit Arora, Dinesh Arora and a mediaperson, all named as accused in the FIR. The officials also wanted to know the details of his communications with Excise Commissioner Arav Gopikrishna, deputy excise commissioner Anand Tiwari and assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, all accused in the case.

Sisodia was questioned following the arrests of AAP’s communication in-charge Vijay Nair and a TRS leader’s son Abhishek Boinpally. Already another accused, Sameer Mahendru has been arrested by Enforcement Directorate in a connected case.

The questioning of Sisodia was preceded by daylong drama in Delhi. AAP supporters staged dharna outside the CBI office, Sisodia took blessings from his mother, visited Rajghat to offer prayers at the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi, and from there, in a procession reached the CBI office. There was a flurry of tweets from both Sisodia and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying that CBI was going to make the arrest.

Even as the questioning was going on, Arvind Kejriwal was asking voters at a rally in Mehsana, Gujarat to chant the slogan “Jail Ke Taaley tootengey, Manish Sisodia Chhootengey” (the locks of jail will be broken, Sisodia will be released). Kejriwal’s chant was a take from a popular web series made on Bihar politics.

Since the common voters of Mehsana were not aware of the web series, it was left to Kejriwal to complete the slogan. Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra commented, ‘if AAP is declaring Sisodia as Shaheed Bhagat Singh, then it should also declare Delhi riots accused Tahir Hussain, in jail, as Rajguru, and Health Minister Satyendar Jain, in jail for corruption, as Sukhdev.’ Rajguru and Sukhdev were Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s associates who were hanged by the British in Lahore jail.

Aam Aadmi Party made the CBI questioning a political event, and alleged that Sisodia was being targeted because of Gujarat assembly elections. Sisodia, was accompanied by a phalanx of AAP leaders like Sanjay Singh, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Atishi and Dileep Pandey, before he reached the CBI office.

AAP workers and leaders grappled with Delhi Police and tried to break through the cordon, since Sec 144 prohibitory orders were in force. Sisodia was wearing a yellow coloured ‘patta’, slogans were chanted in the name of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, and he waved from an open vehicle , which was part of a procession that covered six kilometres, with ‘azadi’ songs blaring from loudspeakers. After the dharna by AAP leaders, 119 AAP leaders and activists were taken into custody by police. These included AAP MP Sanjay Singh and 16 AAP MLAs.

Before reaching the CBI office, Sisodia told media that CBI wanted to arrest him to prevent him from campaigning for his party in Gujarat, but he would “not be cowed down”. He declared himself a staunch follower of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

BJP described the entire drama as a “farce”, and labelled it as “jashn-e-corruption”. Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said, Shaheed Bhagat Singh went to jail for India’s freedom, but Sisodia has to go to CBI office for taking bribes in liquor scam. “Comparing the two is nothing but an insult to our great freedom fighters. If there is a world cup tournament for corruption, AAP will surely win”, Patra said.

Delhi BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa described the AAP protest as ‘tamasha’. Sirsa said, those who fought for India’s freedom used to leave home after their wives put ‘tilak’ on their forehead and they touched their mothers’ feet, but in the present case, those who have taken commission from liquor traders are enacting such a drama.

The visuals of Sisodia touching his mother’s feet to seek her blessings, and his wife applying ‘tilak’ on his forehead, reminded one of how Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, too, touched his mother’s feet, and his wife applied ‘tilak’, before he went for questioning, was arrested, and is still in jail. Raut is yet to get bail from court. Sisodia claimed that the CBI did not find anything incriminating despite carrying out searches in his office, his residence and even his paternal home in Pilkhuwa, UP.

Let us have a look at some of the facts relating to the Delhi liquor scam case. Sisodia has been named by CBI as Accused No.1, while two other accused, Vijay Nair and Abhishek are in jail. ED has already arrested liquor businessman Sameer Mahendru. In all, 15 persons have been named in the FIR.

CBI’s charge is that Sisodia made arbitrary changes in the Delhi government’s liquor policy to help liquor companies, and the new liquor policy was prepared in collusion with these businessmen. People from private companies attended confidential government meetings. The new liquor policy, prepared by Sisodia, did away with small traders, and benefited big liquor traders. Liquor companies were appointed as distributors and retailers.

It has also been alleged that the commission for liquor traders was hiked from two per cent to 12 per cent. Out of this, 6 per cent was taken back in cash. It was alleged that this money was used to fight elections. There are several more serious allegations, and it was, on this basis, that the Delhi Lt. Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended CBI probe against Sisodia. The vital point is that Kejriwal government hurriedly withdrew its new liquor policy, after the probe was ordered.

Delh chief secretary in his report on the new liquor policy had clearly stated that the provisions of GNCT (Government of National Capital Territory) Act, 1991, Transaction of Business Rules, 1993, Delhi Excise Act, 2009 and Delhi Excise Rules, 2010 were violated while framing the new policy. It was alleged that license fees of liquor sellers were waived off, causing Rs 144 crore revenue loss to the exchequer. The report said, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who was holding the excise portfolio, had violated legal provisions and excise rules.

Arvind Kejriwal has been saying since July that his deputy Manish Sisodia will be arrested. On Monday, he even declared in a Gujrat rally that Sisodia has been sent to jail. He asked the voters of Gujarat to chant the slogan “Jail Ke Taaley Tootengey, Manish Sisodia Chhootengey”. It appears as if Kejriwal is more interested than the CBI in ensuring that Sisodia goes to jail. Kejriwal’s calculation could be that if Sisodia is sent to jail, it will help the Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat elections. He wants CBI to arrest Sisodia, so that he can make it a big issue in Gujarat elections.

Since the time the Delhi liquor scam broke, BJP had been trying to make it a corruption issue, but AAP wants to convert it into a political issue. When BJP leaders started alleging that Delhi AAP government gave crores of rupees worth concessions to liquor companies, Kejriwal linked it with Gujarat elections.

Monday’s protests, prayers and procession by AAP were clearly scripted in advance. When Sisodia touched his mother’s feet, his wife applied ‘tilak’ on his forehead, and when he went to Rajghat and from there to CBI office in an open vehicle, Kejriwal and his colleagues gave the entire questioning issue a political colour.

Kejriwal, however, made one mistake. He compared Sisodia with Shaheed Bhagat Singh. To compare a CBI probe in a corruption case with Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom may cost his party heavily.

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