The big guns from the AAP and BJP traded fire on Thursday amid a raging war of words between the two parties over alleged corruption in Delhi’s cricket association which, the city’s ruling party claims, deepened under finance minister Arun Jaitley’s watch.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal ratcheted up his attacks on Jaitley, demanding in a series of tweets that he either quit or be sacked from his post over the “very serious allegations”, even as the BJP resolutely backed its leader.
“Allegations against Jaitley ji r v v serious. Amounts involved r huge. He shud either resign or be removed to enable independent probe,” the CM tweeted.
At a press conference in the Capital, the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said large amounts were siphoned off through fake companies and there were irregularities in team selection when the DDCA was headed by Jaitley.
While the BJP and Jaitley pointed out that a probe by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office had cleared him when the UPA was in power, political commentators said the Kejriwal and his party were merely regurgitating charges that have been in the public domain for long.
In a Facebook post, the finance minister struck back at AAP leaders for making allegations of corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association following a CBI raid at the office of chief minister Kejriwal’s principal secretary, saying “does free speech include the right to speak only falsehood.”
“Delhi CM Kejriwal seems to believe in untruth and defamation, delivered in language that borders on hysteria. No personal allegation was ever made against me nor did I ever feel the need of contradicting it,” he wrote. “Finding himself acting as a shield to cover an officer under investigation, the Delhi Chief Minister has attempted to focus attention on me.”
Human resource development minister Smriti Irani pointed out that the 2013 SFIO probe found no evidence against Jaitley while looking into alleged irregularities in Delhi’s cricket body that he headed for over a decade.
“The BJP stands resolutely behind Arun Jaitley and publicly condemns AAP’s malicious intention to deflect public attention from a corrupt official in Kejriwal’s office,” said Irani.
The acrimonious war of words that has pit the city’s ruling party against the Centre was triggered by the CBI raid on Tuesday at the Delhi secretariat, which Kejriwal said was an attempt by the Centre to access the DDCA files.
Former cricketer Chetan Chauhan, who now heads the cricket body, rejected the AAP’s charges and issued a point-by-point rebuttal, saying they had nothing to hide.
“We want complete transparency. All allegations are baseless. We have spent money like misers,” Chauhan told reporters. “No embezzlement took place during Jaitley’s tenure. You can check SFIO report. There were only procedural lapses and we have compounded (paid fine) for those lapses.”
A day after the Congress demanded a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the matter and Jaitley’s resignation, the principal opposition party did not raise the issue inside or outside Parliament.
But in the evening, the party mounted a renewed attack on Jaitley in a series of tweets, echoing the AAP allegations that corporate boxes at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla cricket ground were given out on lease to companies without following rules.