Ajay Maken, Arvinder Singh Lovely, Sandeep Dikshit: Congress Leaders Who First Accused Arvind Kejriwal In Liquor Policy Scam Are Now Rallying Behind Him

NEW DELHI: In a remarkable twist of political fate, the Congress party has undergone a notable transformation in its stance towards Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s alleged involvement in the excise policy case and his subsequent arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), shifting from accusations to defence. This significant shift in the party’s position has unfolded against the backdrop of the ED’s action in the excise policy case and the recent sealing of a seat-sharing deal between Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the forthcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Congress’ Allegations And Protests

Just a year ago, key figures within the Congress party, including Ajay Maken, Arvinder Singh Lovely, Anil Chowdhary and Sandeep Dikshit, were at the forefront of accusing Arvind Kejriwal in connection to the liquor policy scandal that rocked Delhi in 2023. The party organized protests, demanding Kejriwal’s resignation on grounds of alleged corruption and obstructed investigations while he remained in power. Congress leaders had staged a protest led by Anil Chaudhary near the Aam Aadmi Party office, demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal following the arrest of his deputy Manish Sisodia by the CBI. The party had said a fair probe would not be possible as long as Arvind Kejriwal remains in power. “The entire Delhi government is fully immersed in corruption. As long as Kejriwal remains in power, there will not be an independent probe in the liquor scam, and therefore, he should also submit his resignation,” Chaudhary said.

The Congress party had also filed a formal complaint regarding what it termed as Kejriwal’s fraudulent liquor policy. AICC media cell chief Pawan Khera had claimed credit for initiating the probe, asserting that Congress pressure had compelled the BJP-led Centre to investigate the Delhi liquor scam.

 

 

Congress’ U-Turn On The Issue

However, in a surprising about-face, Congress is now rallying behind Arvind Kejriwal following his recent arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the excise policy case. Congress Leaders such as Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have criticized the arrest, branding it as ”unconstitutional and indicative of authoritarian tactics” aimed at stifling democracy. Rahul Gandhi even spoke against PM Narendra Modi after the arrest of Kejriwal and accused him of resorting to “dictatorial tactics” to destroy democracy in the country. He said that the opposition INDIA bloc will give a “befitting reply to this”.

Delhi Congress President Arvinder Singh Lovely condemned Kejriwal’s arrest, attributing it to BJP’s political manoeuvring ahead of the upcoming elections. Highlighting the pattern of actions taken against Opposition leaders, including the seizure of Congress’ financial resources and the arrest of Jharkhand’s Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Lovely condemned the use of governmental agencies for political ends. “Congress will not be intimidated by these measures and will continue to fight the elections with vigour. As part of the INDIA alliance, we stand firmly with AAP and extend our full support,” he said.

Sandeep Dikshit, who had previously accused Kejriwal, denounced the arrest as an assault on democratic principles. Dikshit lambasted the BJP, questioning the appropriateness of arresting individuals at their homes and linking such actions directly to the election period. Dikshit emphasized the abnormality of conducting raids at night and suggested that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) could have simply summoned Kejriwal for questioning rather than arresting him, deeming the actions as an attack on democratic principles.

Political Fallout Of Kejriwal’s Arrest

The arrest of Kejriwal has injected fresh tension into the political arena, particularly as it coincides with the looming Lok Sabha elections. While AAP leaders have mobilized to challenge the legality of Kejriwal’s arrest, BJP leaders have staunchly defended the ED’s actions, framing them as necessary steps to combat alleged corruption. Delhi BJP President Virendra Sachdeva defended the ED’s actions, accusing Kejriwal of evading accountability in the liquor policy scam and engaging in “political theatrics.” Sachdeva expressed satisfaction over the arrest, asserting that it was a necessary outcome to counteract what he described as Kejriwal’s attempt to corrupt the youth with alcoholism.

The BJP leadership has also rallied behind the ED’s decision to arrest Kejriwal, framing it as a just resolution in the face of alleged misconduct by the Delhi Chief Minister and his administration in the excise policy scandal.

Delhi Excise Case Background

Following a series of developments in the ongoing excise policy case, Kejriwal was produced before the Rouse Avenue court by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday. He was represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Kejriwal’s arrest by the ED, which occurred on Thursday, was precipitated by the Delhi High Court’s denial of interim protection against coercive actions related to the excise policy case. This arrest followed Kejriwal’s repeated non-compliance with nine summonses issued by both the Enforcement Directorate and the Delhi High Court, the latter of which declined to grant him relief from potential coercive measures by the investigative agency.

The crux of the case revolves around allegations of irregularities and money laundering associated with the formulation and execution of the Delhi excise policy in 2022, which was subsequently annulled. Kejriwal’s apprehension occurred amidst a broader investigation into financial improprieties linked to the now-defunct excise policy, with notable figures such as K Kavitha, a leader of the Bharat Rashta Samithi (BRS) and daughter of former Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, also being ensnared in the probe.

Preceding Kejriwal’s arrest, other prominent individuals involved in Delhi’s governance faced legal repercussions in connection to the same case. Manish Sisodia, the former Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, was apprehended by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on February 26, while Sanjay Singh, a member of the Rajya Sabha, was arrested by the ED on October 5. Both Sisodia and Singh remain in judicial custody, further highlighting the gravity of the allegations and the legal ramifications surrounding the excise policy case.

Importantly, Kejriwal’s arrest assumes added significance due to its timing in relation to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, scheduled to take place between April 19 and June 1. As the political landscape becomes increasingly charged, the ramifications of these legal proceedings extend beyond the confines of the courtroom, influencing the broader discourse surrounding governance and accountability in Delhi.

What Next For AAP?

As the legal battle unfolds, with Kejriwal being produced before the court, the political landscape in Delhi remains charged with uncertainty. With key AAP leaders already in judicial custody in connection to the same case, the implications of Kejriwal’s arrest reverberate through the corridors of power, shaping the narrative ahead of the impending elections.