By Sushil Kutty
It did not strike anybody. Neither to the enforcement directorate, nor to the prosecution. And it did not strike the defence team of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. None of the AAP ministers or the AAP MLAs thought of it. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal completely missed it. But it could not escape the notice of the country’s Supreme Court, which sought to know why the Aam Aadmi Party had not been named as an accused in the Delhi liquor scam if the money was going to the AAP treasury?
The question is striking because yet another AAP top-gun has been named and arrested by the ED in the meantime – AAP Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh was taken away by ED officials after 10 hours of interrogation at his North Avenue home in New Delhi. Singh’s wife told the media her husband went asking her to stay “brave”, like her “brave husband”, and that he’ll return home “stronger”. Sanjay Singh has been one of the most persistent critics of the Modi government among opposition politicians. He will be missed, perhaps more than Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia ever was.
Now, AAP Minister for Education Atishi Marlena is asking if “AAP is made an accused in the case, does that not tantamount to the innocence of Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh? And does it not prove that they found nothing against Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh?” For Atishi, the ED going this late to name AAP an accused – after 15 months of investigations – only means that the ED did not have evidence against Manish Sisodia or Sanjay Singh.
Meaning the ED was bluffing the Supreme Court all these months and it is only now, if the ED makes AAP a party in the case, the truth will be out. Marlena, however, sees things differently, she sees a botched plot of a government that is on its last legs. So, is the BJP desperate? Does the ED have any evidence against Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh apart from the “credible allegations” of the Justin Trudeau kind?
We do not know if the raids on Sanjay Singh’s North Avenue home yielded any evidence. No “gold biscuits”, nothing. And Ms. Marlena says nothing will be found, ever. The Supreme Court wanted to know why, if AAP was the main beneficiary of the scam, AAP wasn’t an accused? Manish Sisodia was arrested in February this year and Sanjay Singh on October 4. And all through, AAP condemned the arrests and refuted the allegations. Does that leave AAP in the clear? The ED has named Newsclick.in as an accused in the case lodged against it which saw two arrests.
The Supreme Court said in the AAP case that it wanted “clarity on this issue”. It wanted to know if Manish Sisodia is one of the beneficiaries and if the prosecution’s case is that AAP benefitted, then why is it that AAP is not accused. “How do you answer that?” the court asked. And Atishi Marlena picked up the lifeline. Manish Sisodia is languishing in prison and there is pressure building on AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal. The pressure will only mount with the arrest of Sanjay Singh, whose supporters are more “local and vocal” than those of Manish Sisodia. Kejriwal’s leadership will be tested in the days to come.
That is, if the next target of the “very wise man” isn’t Arvind Kejriwal himself. BJP spokespersons such as the voluble Sambit Patra are already hinting of the needle of suspicion moving towards Kejriwal. The Modi-Kejriwal equation is all skewed up but AAP will not sink as long as Arvind Kejriwal remains on board. Just like BJP without Modi and Congress without Gandhi Family will flounder and perhaps capsize, AAP without Arvind Kejriwal at the helm will overshoot the runway and plunge into the undergrowth. Who will carry the AAP torch if Kejriwal is the next target?
The top court is still hearing appeals. And it wasn’t “Sisodia” who asked why AAP is not named as accused. “He (Sisodia) has not raised this point. We have put it directly to you. Whatever it is, you answer that tomorrow,” the bench told the ED, which so far, in as far as this case is concerned, has had a stellar run. So much so, even the courts haven’t been able to find chinks through which the accused could be offered relief. Satyender Jain, Manish Sisodia, and now Sanjay Singh, what is so damning about this case that it has become so damn difficult to procure bail? Last heard, ED was consulting legal-eagles before naming AAP as an accused and Atishi Marlena was banking on the ED to do just that, as it would be, according to her, proof that ED has no evidence to hold AAP leaders in jail. (IPA Service)