Security on Monday morning was beefed up at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg here as the Aam Aadmi Party has called for a protest against the arrest of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia by the CBI in the excise policy case. Senior AAP leader Gopal Rai said the party will mark the day as a ‘black day’ and will hold protests across the country against the arrest of Sisodia.
The CBI on Sunday arrested Sisodia in connection with alleged corruption in the now-scrapped excise policy relating to the sale of alcohol. Sisodia’s arrest, one of the most high-profile actions against an opposition leader, comes after that of Satyendar Jain, Delhi’s the then health minister, in June last year. The arrest has whirled up a political sandstorm with the AAP and BJP locking horns over CBI’s action.
While the AAP has termed the action ‘dirty politics’, the BJP alleged that AAP leaders had failed to explain several questionable actions in the Delhi excise policy matter, and said that agencies do not work on emotion but look into technicalities.
Amid the case, let’s take a look at the main characters around the arrest of Manish Sisodia, and the Delhi liquor scam case:
“I might have to stay in jail for a few months, but I am not worried about it at all,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said in a letter to Delhiites before he left for the CBI office for questioning in the Delhi excise policy case on Sunday. Sisodia’s arrest, one of the most high-profile actions against an opposition leader, comes after that of Satyendar Jain, Delhi’s the then health minister, in June last year.
Sisodia was arrested after nearly eight hours of questioning on various aspects of the excise policy for 2021-22, which the probe agency says suffered from irregularities both in its formulation and implementation, allegedly intended to benefit people with links to the AAP.
The CBI investigators were not satisfied with Sisodia’s answers, an official said, adding he was not cooperating in the probe and avoided clarifications sought on crucial points. “He gave evasive replies and did not cooperate in the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary. Therefore, he has been arrested,” the CBI said in a statement. Read more on why Sisodia was arrested, here.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Sunday slammed the BJP-led Centre over his deputy Manish Sisodia’s arrest, saying people will respond to it as they are watching how “patriots and honest people” are being jailed while “no action is taken” against those looting the country’s banks.
Sisodia’s absence in the government would leave Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with no heavyweight lieutenant to implement his governance agenda in Delhi.
“Manish Sisodia has been arrested in a completely false case. Manish ji is a gentleman, a patriot as well as an honest and brave person who was busy serving the country round the clock,” Kejriwal told reporters after meeting the deputy chief minister’s wife at her residence following his arrest.
In a veiled attack on the BJP-led Centre, he said, “We are witnessing how gentlemen, patriots, good and honest people are being arrested and jailed in the country. The entire country is watching. People are watching and they will respond to it.”
With Sisodia’s arrest, AAP has pinned the blame on BJP. The party, however, has reiterated that the case is law taking its course. Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s arrest is law taking its course, which is not surprising as a liquor scam worth thousands of rupees was done in the national capital.
The BJP is also putting focus on its allegations of AAP leaders being embroiled in corruption.
In a statement, Bidhuri asserted that now Sisodia will have to answer all the questions and clear the role of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in this scam.
Manish Sisodia was arrested not only because of his role in Liquor scam but also for destruction of evidence. The mastermind of this scam is yet to be held. Law will take its own course & all these people will be punished: Manoj Tiwari, BJP MP pic.twitter.com/d2NIiI6CCj— ANI (@ANI) February 26, 2023
“Law is taking its course and that is why Sisodia has been arrested. There is nothing surprising in this. Thousands of rupees liquor scam was done in Delhi and from the arrests made so far, it was believed that Manish Sisodia would also be arrested eventually,” he said in a statement. “The Delhi government had to withdraw the excise policy due to the liquor scam,” the BJP leader added.
In a video statement, BJP MP Manoj Tiwari alleged that Sisodia is not only accused of the liquor scam but has also tried to bury the evidence and that the investigating agency is yet to reach the mastermind of the scam.
CBI and ED
Delhi’s liquor reforms first ran into trouble with the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing. Then, Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena requested a CBI investigation after citing a report from Delhi’s top bureaucrat that accused Sisodia of breaking regulations and granting undue favours to liquor vend licensees. The policy was scrapped afterwards.
Sisodia had not been identified in the agency’s chargesheet until his arrest. The CBI raided 31 places, including his residence, last year in the case. The agency found nothing, according to the minister.
Separately, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also launched an investigation into the Delhi liquor scam, alleging money laundering, and alleging that a liquor lobby known as the “South Lobby” paid at least 100 crore in kickbacks to the AAP for its Goa election campaign through one of the arrested businessmen.
Recently, the CBI arrested Butchibabu Gorantla, a former chartered accountant of K Kavitha, a BRS MLC in Telangana and a daughter of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. Babu had allegedly met several accused named in the FIR in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai and was one of the prime negotiators from the South Lobby, which wanted to swing policy in its favour.
The CBI had also questioned Kavitha in December last year. During its probe, the CBI had found evidence that Babu acted on behalf of the South Lobby comprising the Telangana MLC, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, and Aurobindo Pharma’s P Sarat Chandra Reddy.
The ED alleged in its remand report that Vijay Nair, a main accused in the Delhi excise policy fraud, received payments worth at least Rs 100 crore from the ‘South Lobby,’ which was ‘managed by Sarath Reddy, K Kavitha, and Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy.
Kalvakuntla Kavitha has been a member of the Nizamabad Legislative Council since 2020. She belongs to the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. From 2014 until 2019, she served as the Member of Parliament for the Nizamabad Lok Sabha Constituency. She is the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
P. Sarath Chandra Reddy, son of Aurobindo Pharma founder P.V. Ram Prasad Reddy, is allegedly a key partner in the biggest cartel benefiting from the Delhi liquor scam, named the ‘South Lobby,’ said a report by Deccan Chronicle.
He has been charged with the matching of IP addresses during the probe, said the report, adding that IP addresses originating from and belonging to Sarath Reddy’s different organisations, including Avanthika, Trident, and Organomix, among others, have been matched for the exchange of critical information throughout the ED probe.
Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, Raghava Reddy
Ongole MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy stated his son Magunta Raghava Reddy had done nothing wrong and that allegations levelled against him in the Delhi liquor case were unfounded. The MP told reporters on Friday that his innocent son was arrested owing to a conspiracy. “The truth will come out very quickly,” he said, refusing to go into any detail because the case is already in court.
Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy currently serves in the 17th Lok Sabha, and is a member of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party and represents the Andhra Pradesh constituency of Ongole.
With inputs from PTI
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