Rajat Sharma


akbWeeks before the general elections, the arrest of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal by Enforcement Directorate in the liquor excise policy scam, has caused political reverberations across the country, with opposition bloc constituents denouncing the arrest as an “assault on democracy”. Aam Aadmi Party workers and leaders staged protests in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and other states, even as Kejriwal was produced in a Delhi court for remand. The Additional Solicitor General S V Raju told the court of Special Judge Kaveri Baweja that Kejriwal was a “key conspirator” in the excise policy-linked money laundering case. The ED counsel alleged that Kejriwal received several crores of rupees as kickbacks from the “South group” for tinkering with the Delhi excise policy, causing several thousand crores worth benefit to liquor companies. The law officer also said that already the money trail showed that Rs 45 crore “kickback” received through four hawala routes, was used in Goa assembly polls and this has been corroborated through call detail records and statements of several accused and witnesses. Senior Supreme Court advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Kejriwal, implored the Special Judge not to look at the remand application as a routine exercise, but apply significant judicial mind, since larger issues of democracy are involved. Kejriwal is the first sitting chief minister in India to be arrested on corruption charge. On Thursday evening, after Kejriwal failed to get relief from Delhi High Court, an ED team led by its joint director went to the chief minister’s official residence, carrying a search warrant and questioned him for two hours before putting him under arrest. Already, two top leaders of AAP Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are in jail for their alleged involvement in this liquor scam. ED has also arrested former Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s daughter K. Kavitha for her alleged involvement in favouring liquor manufacturers in order to siphon off bribe money. Phones and electronic gadgets were seized by the ED team from Kejriwal’s residence. The sword of arrest was hanging over Kejriwal’s head for the last five months, after he evaded nine summons. Let us recall the background of this entire case. Kejriwal and his associates have been claiming from Day One that there has been no scam in the liquor excise case. Kejriwal described his excise minister Manish Sisodia as “kattar imandaar” (extremely honest) and that Sisodia was arrested because he was providing better quality education to children in Delhi government schools. Afterwards, AAP MP Sanjay Singh challenged ED to arrest him. The fact is both these leaders are in jail for the last several months. Both of them went from lower courts to High Court and Supreme Court, but could not get bail. Aam Aadmi Party continued to claim that not even a single rupee was recovered from any of the accused and that the money laundering case was baseless. ED officials said, they had to conduct raids at nearly 100 places in order to reach the money trail. They claimed that the kickback cash was transferred in a hush-hush manner, and it was a difficult process to join the dots. Finally, the links of this scam reached KCR’s daughter K. Kavitha. Kejriwal ignored ED’s summons nine times, challenged ED notice in Delhi High Court. In courts, his lawyers alleged that this was part of a political vendetta and he was being arrested only to prevent him from campaigning in the crucial general elections. Those who follow the traditional paths of Indian politics say, arresting a sitting chief minister before the elections could boomerang, but looking at the temperament of Modi government, the experience till now has been that his government never cared for any political impact, not even before or during elections. Modi’s government never bothered about political profit or loss. Investigation agencies were always given a free hand, no matter what the political timing was.

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