Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is appearing to be vulnerable, particularly after the arrest of Sanjay Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP of the Aam Aadmi Party, by the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday. However, he is determined to fight back and has claimed that the arrests of AAP leaders were of political nature and all of them were above board and were being framed by the Centre.
Sanjay Singh, one of the most vocal critics of the Prime Minister, was picked up by the ED officials following disclosures made by another accused, and now an approver, that he had taken Rs two crores in cash at his official residence. The MP and his family have denied the allegations and have maintained that no such thing ever took place and this so-called liquor scam was being used to fix AAP functionaries.
First it was former deputy CM, Manish Sisodia and now Sanjay Singh who has been close to him. Speculation is that the ED has a lot of stuff on Kejriwal as well and it was a matter of time before he is detained and charged with relevant sections of law.
Nevertheless, the Delhi Chief Minister is putting up a brave front and continues to maintain that his party had all honest agreements and was not involved in any kind of underhand dealings. Paradoxically, while some Congress leaders were seen siding with Sanjay Singh on the day of his arrest, the AAP government has arrested a senior Congress leader, Sukhpal Khaira in Punjab on charges of being involved in distribution of narcotics in the State.
Khaira has since appealed against his arrest and Pratap Singh Bajwa, leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly has questioned the real intent of the State government in arresting his colleague. Khaira was in AAP and after winning the 2017 Assembly elections, was appointed as the leader of Opposition in the Assembly by Kejriwal during the tenure of Captain Amarinder Singh.
He subsequently returned to the Congress and is currently an MLA. The point is that confusing signals are emanating so far as Congress-AAP relationship is concerned. The two parties appear to be together in Delhi and against each other in Punjab. However, the BJP continues to train its guns on Kejriwal accusing him of corrupt practices during his period of governance in the capital.
The AAP has its origins in the India Against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and backed by amongst others, a section of the RSS. Its objective has been a Congress free India, the same as that of the BJP and therefore, the grand old party has often dubbed Kejriwal and his followers as the `B’ team of the RSS.
In a sense the charge could be seen as accurate as well, given the fact that the Congress has virtually been decimated in Delhi following the rise of AAP, and the blame for this is certainly on the shoulders of its High Command, which during the 15 years regime of Sheila Dikshit, completely ignored the organization.
Kejriwal has benefitted greatly from the absence of an organizational structure in the Congress and has also been successful in pushing the BJP to play second fiddle to the AAP in the capital. The BJP is not been able to dislodge him because it does not have a clear leader in the city, after Madan Lal Khurana, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Kedar Nath Sahani and Sahib Singh Verma.
The AAP government because of its style of functioning and due to Kejriwal’s confrontationist approach has had many run-ins with the Centre. This necessitated the curbing of powers of the elected representatives, a matter approved by Parliament but under challenge in the Apex Court.
Kejriwal has also joined the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) against the BJP and the NDA and hopes to emerge as a national leader, especially after his party is the only one which runs government in at least two states, other than the Congress.
However, even though he is close to Mamata Banerjee and some others, many Congress leaders view his activities with suspicion and are of the opinion that he may in the end, play a role in minimizing the collective strength of the anti-BJP front by raising issues that were not relevant to the overall interests of the coalition.
This is all in the realm of speculation and Kejriwal, who is also facing criticism for the huge cost incurred on the construction of his official house, is trying to keep himself afloat. His close associate and adviser, Raghav Chadha, a Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab, is also on the ED scanner and the political grapevine is that he too could be taken into custody. In fact, the AAP has to get over a lot of complexities and challenges that are being posed to its leaders on a daily basis.
Punjab Chief Minister, Bhagwant Singh Mann has also been criticized for his manner of functioning but many, view him as someone, who is trying to break free from the strangle-hold of Kejriwal and its Delhi centric leadership. Sanjay Singh has been arrested and time will tell whether he has any involvement in the cases that have been instituted against him.
Several AAP leaders claim that the cases have been instituted against the AAP because of the forthcoming Parliamentary elections. This implies that once the polls are over, so will the cases. However, at this juncture, Kejriwal is passing through a critical phase and his credibility is being questioned. It is for him to prove his critics wrong.