Manish Sisodia, top Delhi minister, arrested on corruption charge

Investigating agency CBI arrests Delhi’s deputy chief minister for alleged irregularities in liquor policy.

Manish Sisodia
Manish Sisodia is the AAP party’s second-in-command [File: Shonal Ganguly/AP Photo]

A federal investigating agency of India has arrested a top minister in the capital territory of New Delhi in connection with alleged irregularities in a liquor policy, the most high-profile arrest in the case so far.

Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister in the Delhi government, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) late on Sunday night after almost eight hours of questioning. He was produced in a local court on Monday.

Sisodia was arrested in an ongoing investigation in “a case related to alleged irregularities in framing and implementation of the excise policy”, the CBI said in a release.

“He gave evasive replies and did not co-operate [with] the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary,” it said. “Therefore, he has been arrested.”

India’s agencies have been investigating suspected irregularities in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s liquor policy after a federal government report in July last year suggested the policy benefitted private liquor retailers by offering them discounts at the cost of the exchequer.

The policy was subsequently withdrawn.

India’s financial crime-fighting agency, the Enforcement Directorate, is separately investigating French liquor major Pernod Ricard for allegedly violating the same liquor policy.

“Manish Sisodia was arrested not only because of his role in liquor scam but also for destruction of evidence. The mastermind of this scam is yet to be held. Law will take its own course and all these people will be punished,” said Manoj Tiwari, a parliamentarian from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But the AAP, which had been anticipating Sisodia’s arrest, said the move was due to “political rivalry” and that it was a “fake case”. “Black day for democracy,” the party’s Delhi unit tweeted after the arrest.

Manish Sisodia and Arvind Kejriwal AAP
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, right, with Sisodia during the release of the party’s manifesto for the 2020 Delhi state elections [File: Manish Swarup/AP Photo]

The AAP denied any wrongdoing by Sisodia and said his arrest is a political vendetta from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The party has threatened protests in the capital and other parts of the country over the arrest.

“Manish is innocent. His arrest is dirty politics,” Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister and head of AAP, said in a tweet.

“There is a lot of anger among people because of Manish’s arrest. People are watching everything. People will respond to this,” Kejriwal wrote. “This will boost our spirit. Our struggle will get stronger.”

Sisodia is also the party’s second-in-command and has helped push AAP’s reach to other states as the party seeks to wrest control of key states from the BJP in upcoming elections.

Apart from Delhi, the decade-old AAP also controls the western state of Punjab.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies