Delhi excise policy scam: CBI to question CM Kejriwal on Sunday

The chief minister on his part said the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) has emerged as a ray of hope for the country and claimed that is the reason why efforts are being made to trample it.

New Delhi: The CBI will question Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday in its probe into the excise policy scam, a move that has escalated the AAP-Centre faceoff and became a fresh rallying point for opposition unity push ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

As opposition leaders like the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and JD(U) supremo and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed solidarity with Kejriwal on Saturday and renewed calls to speed up opposition unity efforts to take on the BJP, officials said the CBI may ask the AAP chief about the policy formulation process, especially of the “untraceable” file which was earlier slated to be put before the Delhi Council of Ministers.

Kejriwal is being summoned as a witness and is not an accused in the excise policy case in which his former deputy Manish Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) on February 26. Sisodia was last month arrested by the Enforcement Directorate(ED) and is in judicial custody.

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The chief minister on his part said the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) has emerged as a ray of hope for the country and claimed that is the reason why efforts are being made to trample it.

In his first reaction after being served a notice by the CBI to appear before it at 11 am on Sunday, Kejriwal said he will be present before the probe agency.

Addressing a press conference here, he said no other party has been targeted in the last 75 years as the AAP. He also alleged that the agencies were torturing people to extract false confessions.

Asserting that if he was “corrupt” then no one in the world was “honest”, Kejriwal also claimed that BJP leaders were demanding his arrest and that if the saffron party had “ordered” the probe agency to arrest him, it cannot refuse doing so.

Kejriwal said he will sue the CBI and ED officials for alleged perjury and filing false affidavits in courts.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju took a jibe at Kejriwal over his sue CBI and ED remarks, saying the AAP leader will file a case against the court if convicted.

It is alleged that the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 to grant licences to liquor traders favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP. The policy was later scrapped.

Kejriwal also wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin, saying democracy in India is being dealt blows every single day and the country’s federal structure is in grave danger. “It is a foregone conclusion that democracy in India is suffering from blows every single day.”

Sources said that Kharge telephoned Kejriwal, and stressed the need for opposition parties to unite against the BJP ahead of the 2024 general elections.

Kharge is learnt to have expressed solidarity with Kejriwal, they said.

Nitish Kumar said Kejriwal will reply to “all the actions” initiated against him at an “appropriate time”.

“People know what is happening against him (Kejriwal). He is a well-regarded person and he has done a lot of developmental work in his state. He will reply to all the actions that have been initiated against him at the appropriate time”, the Bihar chief minister told reporters in Patna.

“This is the reason that we are making efforts to unite more and more parties in the country against the BJP-led central government. We will make all efforts and work unitedly.”

Kumar met Kejriwal in Delhi on Wednesday in his attempt to forge an alliance of opposition parties against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre before the 2024 general election.

In his reply to a letter from Stalin, Kejriwal noted that “every tenet” of the India’s Constitution stands compromised, be it liberty, equality, secularism, or fraternity.

Making a strong pitch for opposition unity ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the DMK supremo recently said there should be collective effort towards ensuring federalism, equality and social justice.

The AAP alleged that the Centre was “misusing” probe agencies to “harass” its leaders and preparing to arrest Kejriwal.

It also alleged that the Centre was “scared” of the AAP and their aim was to finish the party.

Addressing a press conference, senior AAP leader and Delhi Cabinet minister Atishi asserted Kejriwal was the only politician speaking out on the issue of corruption, which was why efforts were being made to stifle his voice.

As the political slugfest intensified, the BJP claimed that Kejriwal was trembling with fear following the CBI summons to him, and said he should take a lie detector test if he had nothing to be afraid of.

At a press conference, BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia also slammed the AAP leader for attacking the central government over the summons and said it was not the time for rhetoric but accountability.

Delhi Police will deploy over 1,000 security personnel, including paramilitary forces, outside the CBI headquarters to ensure the safety of Kejriwal, officials said.

Security will also be tightened outside the AAP office in Rouse Avenue, they said.

An adequate number of barricades will also be placed on the streets at both these places to ensure AAP workers and supporters do not create any trouble, they said.

Officials said the CBI may also quiz Kejriwal on the statements of other accused where they have indicated the manner in which policy was allegedly influenced to favour some liquor businessmen and the ‘South liquor lobby’.

In addition, the agency may also seek his role in the formulation of the excise policy and his knowledge about alleged influence being cast by the traders and ‘South lobby’ members, the officials said.

Kejriwal may also be asked if he was involved in the formulation of the policy before it was given approval, they said.

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