Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday took a swipe at the Centre, saying the CBI search at the Delhi secretariat was aimed at a file connected to union finance minister Arun Jaitley and his links with the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). Jaitley refused to comment on the issue beyond terming Kejriwal’s charge as “rubbish”.
The remark came after Kejriwal called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “psychopath” and “coward” after the CBI raid, triggering a torrent of criticism from BJP leaders in the latest clash between the central and the Delhi governments.
Kejriwal’s tirade against the NDA government on Twitter was backed by several opposition parties but an angry BJP demanded an unconditional apology from the chief minister for his language and accused him of protecting corrupt officials.
“CBI raids my office. When Modi couldn’t handle me politically, he resorted to this cowardice. Modi is a coward and a psycopath (sic),” the CM tweeted as several party leaders called the incident shameful.
The agency refuted the charges, saying its investigators raided the office of senior bureaucrat and the chief minister’s secretary Rajendra Kumar for allegedly favouring private firms in state tenders. Raids were also conducted at 14 other places in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, sources added.
Kejriwal’s critics said the former anti-corruption crusader was indulging in theatrics and playing the victim with claims of political vendetta.
“I don’t know when the CBI got the complaint regarding the charges and when they registered the FIR. But merely because he (Rajendra) is raided and he happens to be the principal secretary and a trusted man of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal does not make the raid political vendetta,” senior advocate and former AAP leader Prashant Bhushan told ANI.
Yogendra Yadav, also a former founding member of the party, called Tuesday’s happenings “a drama”.
“Both allegations correct: BJP govt guilty of vendetta. AAP govt guilty of drama. Can they PLEASE spare the people and focus on governance!” (sic) Yadav tweeted.
Both Bhushan and Yadav were expelled from the party in April for alleged anti-party activities. They later formed a collective called Swaraj Abhiyan.
The AAP administration has repeatedly accused the Centre of trying to run the city by proxy using lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung. The two sides have clashed on the appointment and transfer of senior bureaucrats and Delhi Police, which reports to the Union home ministry and not the city government.
The fresh tussle has pushed on the back burner a war of words in the past few days between the two governments over a railways anti-encroachment drive at a slum cluster in the Capital during which an infant girl was allegedly killed.
Tuesday’s dramatic raids came days after the Congress paralysed Parliament over the government’s alleged vendetta in the National Herald funds misuse case, where Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are accused of illegally acquiring property worth crores.
Keriwal found support from the Trinamool Congress with its lawmaker Derek O’Brien attacking the raid as “unprecedented in the history of modern India” while speaking in Parliament, even as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed shock on Twitter.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, whose campaign was supported by the AAP during recent polls in his state, also criticised the CBI raid in a show of Opposition unity and possible alignment of anti-BJP parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The BJP backed the Central Bureau of Investigation, saying the agency didn’t function under the Centre.
“Kejriwal’s language was unwarranted, shameful and condemnable. We demand an unqualified apology for the baseless allegations,” said Union telecommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
But the AAP chief scaled up his attack, alleging that the real motive of the raid was to “look at files related to corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association which has brought BJP leader and current finance minister Arun Jaitley under the scanner”.
“I was about to set up a commission of inquiry (in the DDCA issue). They (CBI) wanted to look at that file,” he told reporters at the residence of his deputy, Manish Sisodia, where the CM and senior AAP leaders remained in a huddle through the day. “Rajendra Kumar is just an excuse, I am the real target. “
Jaitley, however, rejected Kejriwal’s allegations that there were financial irregularities when he was president of the DDCA for over a decade.
“This morning’s statement appeared to be prima facie incorrect. But the evening one seemed to be absolutely rubbish and I do not think I need to respond to this rubbish,” he said.
Sources say Kejriwal has been keenly pursuing the DDCA case after two former Test cricketers from the city and other functionaries pointed out irregularities in the sports body, which has hobbled from one controversy to another.
“The DDCA is not registered under the Delhi government and it comes under section 25 of the Companies Act,” said the association’s treasurer, Ravinder Manchanda. The Delhi government has no jurisdiction over the DDCA. And we strongly object to the comments made by the Delhi government.”