The Central Bureau of Investigation arrested Delhi chief minister’s principal secretary, Rajendra Kumar, on charges of corruption on Monday, furthering the acrimony between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP.
Kumar was one of five arrested for alleged corruption during 2007-14 after the CBI spent six hours questioning him.
He was taken in along with Tarun Sharma, a deputy secretary in chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office, besides three other individuals. He will be produced in court on Tuesday.
Kumar is accused of abusing his office by favouring a private firm during Sheila Dikshit’s tenure as Delhi chief minister. The first information report (FIR) claims that he promoted the company from 2007 onwards, and facilitated granting tenders worth Rs 9.5 crore to it. Overall, contracts worth about Rs 57 crore were awarded to these companies.
The CBI further alleged that member of Kumar’s family were on the boards of these companies.
Drawn out controversy
The arrest is a culmination of months of investigation and follows several bouts of the AAP versus Centre.
The CBI had first raided Kumar’s offices in December 2015, sparking a blowback from AAP and leading to Kejriwal’s infamous “coward and psychopath” tweet about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The central agency had also registered its case against Kumar at that time, and conducted several raids through Delhi.
The CBI’s investigation was launched in response to a complaint filed by former Delhi Dialogue Commission member, Ashish Joshi.
Joshi was one of the first bureaucrats Kejriwal had an issue with, which led to him resigning from the commission.
AAP alleges conspiracy
The party has often lashed out at the Centre, saying the CBI investigation was being conducted at their behest. On Monday, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the timing of the arrest was “suspect”.
“The Centre is targeting him only because of Kejriwal and the tremendous support the AAP is getting in Punjab and Goa,” he said, though he added that if Kumar was wrong he should be punished.
The BJP however countered AAP, claiming that those close to Kejriwal were being shielded.
“AAP is creating a hindrance in the CBI probe... That means no matter how corrupt a person is, if he’s close to Kejriwal, they will protect him,” leader of opposition in Delhi assembly and BJP member, Vijender Gupta said.
The BJP found an unlikely ally in the Congress that also questioned AAP’s staunch backing of Kumar.
Rajendra Kumar is a 1989 batch IAS officer from the Union Territory division. He is also an alumnus of IIT, and is known to share a good rapport with Kejriwal, a fellow IIT alumnus.
Kumar was also a secretary in Dikshit’s administration, the term during which he is being accused of corruption.
Controversies court Kumar
Considered close to the chief minister, Rajender Kumar was in the news last June when he was given additional charge as home secretary.
Jung opposed the move saying he had not approved it, and instead appointed Dharam Pal as home secretary. The issue led to weeks of stand-off between the AAP-led Delhi government and BJP-led Centre as Kejriwal refused to back down.
It further led to a peculiar situation where both Kumar and Pal were functioning from the Delhi secretariat. Kumar ultimately had to go.