The CBI arrested on Monday a top Delhi government official close to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on corruption charges, triggering a fresh showdown between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP-led government at the Centre.
Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar was among five people arrested by the central agency for alleged corruption between 2007 and 2014. Deputy secretary Tarun Sharma was also among the arrested.
Kejriwal has stood by Kumar, an IAS of the 1989 batch, since the CBI raided the officer’s office in January in the same case. An alumnus of IIT, Kumar is known to enjoy good rapport with Kejriwal who also graduated from the same institution as a mechanical engineer in 1989.
A livid AAP launched a vicious attack on the Centre and PM Narendra Modi over what it called was “political vendetta” and accusing him of stooping to a new low.
“If Kumar is wrong, he should be punished but the timing of the arrest is suspect. The Centre is targeting him only because of Kejriwal and the tremendous support the AAP is getting in Punjab and Goa,” deputy CM Manish Sisodia said.
“The truth is that Modiji hates the people of Delhi (for electing AAP).” The BJP hit back, accusing the AAP government of trying to shield a corrupt officer.
“There are serious charges against Kumar and (the) AAP government is creating hindrance in the CBI’s probe. That means no matter how corrupt a person is, if he is close to Kejriwal, they will protect him,” said Vijender Gupta, the leader of opposition in Delhi assembly.
The BJP found an unlikely ally in the Congress. “What we fail to understand is that why is Kejriwal protecting an official who has been arrested in a corruption case?” questioned Delhi Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee.
The CBI registered a case against Kumar and others in December alleging that the officer abused his official position by favouring a particular firm in getting contracts of Delhi government departments.
The CBI said the accused —including a close aide of Kumar and the two owners of the private firm — entered into a criminal conspiracy that led to a loss of Rs 57 crore to the Delhi government.
It said the two officials were paid more than Rs 3 crore in bribes.
Kumar, whose appointment was once blocked by the Lieutenant Governor, was the secretary (IT) under the Sheila Dikshit government when the alleged corruption took place. “The allegations relate to bribery and abuse of official position by the said senior civil servant and others to favour a Delhi-based private company in award of contracts of Delhi government,” CBI spokesperson RK Gaur said, adding the accused will be produced in court on Tuesday. The two officials were arrested after a marathon six-hour questioning.