Delhi Deputy Prime Minister Manish Sisodia made a chilling claim after nine hours of questioning by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Officials who wanted to question him about the Delhi government’s controversial alcohol policy urged him to resign from the ruling Aam Aadmi party, Sisodia said. They even threatened that his case could otherwise be like that of Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain, who has been charged with money laundering since May. “They will make you a CM,” he quoted officials as saying. The authority immediately issued a refusal.
“CBI strongly denies these allegations and reiterates that the investigation into Shri Sisodia was conducted in a professional and legal manner strictly in accordance with the allegations against him in the FIR. The investigation into the case continues in accordance with the law,” read a statement, issued shortly after Mr Sisodia’s remarks made headlines.
Coming home after the marathon interrogation session that started at noon, Mr Sisodia told reporters: “Excise policy was discussed but I was pressured to back down. ‘These cases will continue’.
“I told them I would be delighted when a rickshaw driver’s son joins the IIT,” he said. “Today I understood that the CBI is not investigating fraud…the case against me is only to help make Operation Lotus a success,” he added.
AAP has claimed the BJP was attempting to launch “Operation Lotus” — toppling an opposition government by poaching its MLAs — in Delhi and Punjab. The party even tabled a resolution against it in Delhi last month.
Sources said Mr Sisodia was questioned about the alleged involvement of liquor companies in shaping liquor policy. The agency also had questions about claims that the liquor companies made 12 percent of profits, 6 percent of which was channeled to state officials through intermediaries such as Hyderabad-based businessman Abhishek Bonipally.
The other big questions concerned the alleged loss to the state in the process and irregularities in the implementation of the directive, such as cabinet approval of the new rules once implemented.
To some relief for AAP, which has been preparing for Mr Sisodia’s arrest, the agency has not summoned him for a second meeting.
Mr Sisodia’s home was raided multiple times by the CBI in August after it was given the green light for the investigation by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena. The deputy prime minister is the main defendant in the case, which involves alleged bribes paid to political leaders by private actors in exchange for liquor store licenses.
AAP has said Mr Sisodia is now being arrested in what it describes as the BJP’s “political vendetta”. The BJP, AAP claimed, is “terrified” of the outcome of Gujarat’s general election and wants to prevent key leaders from campaigning in the state.
Party leader and Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that the BJP plans to keep Mr Sisodia in prison until after the Gujarat elections. But no prison can hold his deputy, he added. “Prison locks will break Manish Sisodia will be free,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Earlier this morning, several AAP leaders, including MP Sanjay Singh, were arrested after protesting massively against the questioning of Manish Sisodia. Around 100 executives and workers were arrested outside the CBI offices.