“THERE IS AN Emergency-like situation in Delhi…investigating agencies are agents of the ruling party… a deep political conspiracy behind our minister’s arrest…” Yes, this is how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had reacted when Arvind Kejriwal’s Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar was arrested for submitting a forged law degree. That was in 2015. And the party that was birthed in the long-forgotten Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign has since found itself buried neck-deep in serious charges of corruption against its ministers and senior members.
Although the decibel level following the arrest of Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s No 2 in the Delhi government and the party, was much higher, this was only to be expected given his close proximity to the AAP convener. But the script virtually read the same. In each case when a senior AAP leader has found himself in the crosshairs of the long arm of the law, the party’s robot-like response is to cry vendetta, the Modi government foisting false cases, misusing investigating agencies to sully the whiter-than-white image of AAP.
Do not expect a word edgeways on the alleged charges. If the liquor policy was so good, why was it so hurriedly withdrawn once the charges surfaced? No, not a word on that. But, of course, a lot of whataboutery, nay, plain roadside tomfoolery to divert public attention.
Let us refresh your memory of the fake degree case against Tomar. Weeks before his actual arrest, the AAP spokespersons most vehemently denounced Delhi Police for hounding Tomar. Then Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi was called names, raucous protests were staged at his office. Otherwise also, no effort was spared to defend Tomar, and to proclaim from the rooftops that his law degree was hundred per cent kosher. As usual, a lot of liberals stuck their necks out to defend Tomar and to tick off the Centre for going after the latest messiah of clean politics.
Sorry to say, this was a false messiah for whom no subterfuge was low so long as it helped him attain power. Consider the scorecard the young party has notched up in corruption casualties in such a short time. Within months of assuming charge in Punjab, AAP’s Health Minister Vijay Singla found himself caught on tape, instructing his PA to demand a cut in cash on all pharmaceuticals purchased by the government. When it became impossible to defend the indefensible, reluctantly, they let him go. Within weeks, another tape surfaced, involving another minister. Fauja Singh Sarari was heard instructing his aide to “trap” truckers in false cases so that a hafta could be fixed for them to operate trouble-free. Despite opposition pressure for months, Sarari was only recently dropped. Again, in the last week of February, one of the AAP MLAs from Bhatinda district, Amit Rattan Kotfatta, was arrested for demanding a 20 per cent commission on all development funds from the village sarpanch. His aide, one Rashim Garg, was arrested earlier accepting a `4 lakh bribe.
Now, if you are thinking you haven’t read any of the above in your morning dailies, it is not your fault. The Kejriwal sarkar buys good press in return for generous ad handouts from the much-bloated advertising budget of the Delhi government.
To return to Sisodia’s arrest, one is curious as to who will pick up the huge tab for his legal defence. Since top lawyers charge a couple of lakhs for opening their mouths, I am just wondering why the taxpayers should pay to defend a politician who in the first place is accused of defrauding the very same taxpayers. Ideally, ministers charged with corrupt activities should arrange their own legal defence. In case of acquittal, the government could reimburse their legal costs. Otherwise, for the poor taxpayers, it is a double whammy of scam losses coupled with legal costs running into tens of lakhs.
We completely forgot Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain. He has been cooling his heels in Tihar for months on money-laundering charges. However, full marks to him for looking after his own health, getting free massages from fellow prisoners and wholesome food from home. Meanwhile, the resignations of ministers Sisodia and Jain may have opened opportunities for two more AAP crusaders to fill their shining shoes.