The notification of the delimitation draft by the Centre has made a bugle call for the civic polls in the political clouts. Drawing boards are mopped to chalk out winnable strategies with instructions for the cadre to buckle up for the biggest showdown of the year.
However, in elections, the actual battle is fought on the playground of perception. The victory and votes go to the winner of this game. The BJP is eyeing its fourth consecutive term in the election. The AAP has emerged as the major opposition. Both parties have armed themselves with grand plans and accusations against each other.
Amid much hullabaloo, the Centre merged three corporations this year into a unified civic body on May 22. A day later, it appointed a new Lieutenant Governor. Eyes were rolled as the new L-G, V K Saxena, was said to lack administrative experience for the job. But many perceived this move as a signal for the AAP, indicating that its tough days are ahead. It didn’t take much time for this prophecy to come true. A Pandora’s box of scams and allegations was about to be opened.
Within two months of his tenure, the new Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) denied Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal permission to take part in a summit in Singapore while a probe into the now-redundant excise policy was ordered.
Both parties have often been at loggerheads, usually over frequent tussles between the Delhi government and the Centre-controlled L-G. However, this time, the tussle is intensifying with new and major accusations every other day.
A glimpse at ‘vendetta politics’
May 22, 2022 - Centre merged three corporations this year into a unified civic body
May 30 - Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain arrested by Enforcement Directorate in a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)
June 1 - First confrontation between AAP and L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena, week after latter assumed office. He held meeting with Delhi Jal Board officials and gave new orders. A miffed AAP asked Saxena not to “overstep his jurisdiction”
July 22 - Saxena recommends a CBI probe against Deputy CM Manish Sisodia
August 6 - L-G orders disciplinary proceedings against 11 excise officers, including an IAS officer
August 19 - CBI raids 21 locations, including the residence of Manish Sisodia, in connection with excise policy allegations
August 26 - Saxena asks for report over delay on part of the vigilance authorities in taking action on a report into the construction of additional classrooms in Delhi government-run schools
August 29 - Saxena seeks explanation for decline in enrolment and rise in absenteeism in government schools since 2014-15 despite an increase in expenditure on education
August 29 - In Delhi Assembly, AAP alleges Saxena pressured his employees to exchange demonetised notes worth J1,400 crore in 2016 when he was heading the commission
September 11 - Saxena approves proposal to probe alleged irregularities in procurement of 1,000 low-floor buses by AAP government. Proposal directed at the CBI
The first face-off
The first confrontation between the AAP and L-G happened a week after he assumed the office. On June 1, the new L-G held a meeting with the officials of the Delhi Jal Board (DJP) and also passed a few instructions. The move triggered AAP, which publicly denounced it and asked Saxena not to “overstep his jurisdiction.”
“Education, electricity, and water are subjects that come under the Delhi government. What will the officials do? Will they follow the instructions of the L-G or the government or neither? This will lead to a chaotic situation in Delhi,” the party said.
However, the BJP stated that AAP was trying to divert attention by creating an issue out of nothing.
“AAP leaders are trying to create a controversy over a meeting of DJB officials with the L-G. It’s a tactic to divert attention from the arrest of Satyendar Jain,” it said. Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain was arrested on May 30 by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in a case connected to hawala transactions related to a Kolkata-based company.
Over a month later, another altercation occurred but with a more serious accusation that involved the redundant excise policy of the Delhi government, which garnered notoriety within days of its launch.
Excise policy scam
On July 22, Saxena recommended a CBI probe against Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, who also holds the portfolio of excise minister, alleging him of violations of rules and procedural lapses in the city government’s excise policy 2021-22. His office even accused the Kejriwal government of misrepresenting excise revenues.
The new policy allowed the opening of liquor shops in non-conforming areas. A non-conforming area includes unauthorised areas or colonies, or those which are ordinarily not included in such policies.
A week after the call to initiate the probe, the Delhi government suspended the newly introduced excise policy and returned to the old one. On August 6, Saxena ordered disciplinary proceedings against 11 officers of the Excise Department, including an IAS officer who headed the department when the policy was rolled out.
On August 19, the CBI raided 21 locations, including the residence of Sisodia, in connection with its investigation into the alleged irregularity in the new excise policy. A search also took place at former Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna’s residence. “I welcome CBI. We will cooperate fully. There have been many such probes, raids in the past. Nothing came out. Nothing will come out this time too,” Sisodia had remarked.
Later, the central agency booked the AAP leader and 14 other people, alleging irregularities in the liquor policy. The AAP attributed the raids to the political motives of the BJP, which, according to the AAP, was rattled by its rise.
Enters the Enforcement Directorate
Now the corruption in the case has a new angle – money laundering. Two days ago, ED carried out a search operation at 40 locations across the country linked to its money laundering probe in connection with the Delhi liquor policy.
This search operation was followed by another raid conducted on September 6 by the ED at 35 locations across Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Mumbai, Chennai, Chandigarh, and Jalandhar in the same case. The agency registered a case of money laundering in the matter in the first week of this month based on the CBI FIR against Sisodia and 14 others.
Meanwhile, the BJP released a series of videos claiming to be “sting operations” which showed people acknowledging the laundering of crores of rupees by Delhi government functionaries in return for liquor retail licenses.
On August 26, Saxena demanded a report from the chief secretary over the two-and-a-half-year delay on part of the vigilance department in taking action on a report into the construction of additional classrooms in Delhi government-run schools .
The CVC had found gross irregularities and procedural lapses in the execution of the classroom projects. Furthering the accusation, Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena’s office wrote to the chief secretary on August 29 seeking an explanation for the “decline in enrolment and rise in absenteeism in government schools since 2014-15 despite an increase in expenditure on education.’’
The BJP accused another scam and stated that the Delhi government counted toilets as classrooms and allegedly siphoned-off crore of money allotted for the project. The accusation also led to a public spat between leaders of the BJP and AAP who went on the ground to investigate the “reality” of government schools.
Amid the backlash of being accused of multiple scams, the AAP retorted in a similar manner and alleged LG Saxena of a scam that happened during his tenure as Chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
Another day, another scam
Within days, another allegation of the latest “scam” rocked the corridors of the Delhi secretariat. This time, it involved the transport department. On September 11, Saxena approved a proposal to probe alleged irregularities in the procurement of 1,000 low-floor buses by the Delhi government in 2019 and 2020. The proposal was directed at CBI. A complaint alleging irregularities in the procurement of the buses was received by the Lieutenant Governor’s office in July.
The L-G alleged corruption and irregularity in the appointment of the Delhi transport minister, Kailash Gahlot, as chairman of the committee related to tendering and purchasing of buses. He also accused that the appointment of DIMTS-Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System as the bid management consultant for this tender was done with the aim of “facilitating wrongdoing”.
The AAP called the latest accusation “vendetta politics” and called Saxena its facilitator who works on the behest of BJP. However, the saffron party termed the latest accusation as “bust of Kejriwal model”
While the war of words continued, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj in a presser stated, “Buses were never purchased, tenders were cancelled. Delhi needs a more educated L-G. This man has no clue what he is signing on to.”
Meanwhile, amid all the accusations and counter-accusations, both the AAP and the BJP are preparing for a mega battle. The delimitation draft has set the ball rolling for the Delhi municipal elections, which can tentatively be held by December.
AAP Charges figment of imagination: L-G
The L-G threatened to file defamation charges against AAP leaders Atishi, Saurabh Bharadwaj, and Durgesh Pathak for levelling “false corruption charges” against him. His office called AAP allegations a “figment of imagination”
Nod for Singapore trip denied
In the midst of additional raids and accusations of fraud, the L-G denied Kejriwal political clearance to travel to Singapore for an event to which he had been invited. He rejected the AAP government’s proposal for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Singapore visit to attend the World Cities Summit in Singapore on August 1, claiming that his attendance at the mayors’ conference would set a “bad precedent”
According to Saxena, the conference was covering different aspects of urban governance, which are addressed by diverse bodies like MCD, DDA and NDMC apart from the city government. It was not suited for the position of a CM, he said
Gahlot’s appointment flawed: Saxena
The LG alleged corruption and irregularity in the appointment of Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot as chairman of panel related to tendering and purchasing of buses. He accused that the appointment of DIMTS-Delhi Multi-Modal Transit System as the tender management consultant was done with the aim of “facilitating wrongdoing”