Government

As CBI Nabs Kejriwal’s Trusted Official in Graft Case, AAP Cries Foul

The party says that the questioning of a minister in a water scam case and the transfer of another official during the day point to an attempt to disrupt the functioning of the Delhi government.

Rajendra Kumar. Credit: PTI

Principal Secretary Rajendra Kumar. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday arrested Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s right-hand-man and principal secretary Rajendra Kumar, deputy secretary to CM Tarun Sharma and three others in a Rs. 50 crore scam that dates back to 2006, prompting an angry response from the Aam Aadmi Party which termed the action an attempt to “paralyse the chief minister’s office”.

The case was registered on a complaint by former Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC) member Ashish Joshi to the Delhi government’s anti-corruption branch early in 2015. CBI spokesperson R.K. Gaur said there were allegations related to bribery and abuse of position against the accused and further investigations in the case were on.

The agency has accused Kumar – an IIT alumnus like Kejriwal – of abusing his official position to award contracts to M/s Endeavour Systems Pvt. Ltd. and securing government tenders worth Rs. 9.5 crore between 2007 and 2014 for the company – when the Congress was in power in the national capital region. The CBI said the accused have been booked under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

All the accused will now be produced at the Patiala House court on Tuesday. Rajendra Kumar is a trusted friend and official of Arvind Kejriwal. A 1989 batch IAS officer, he held several important positions under the previous Sheila Dikshit-led regime of the Congress too. He was appointed principal secretary to the chief minister in February 2015 after AAP returned to power for the second time.

The investigating agency had last December raided the office of Rajendra Kumar at the Delhi secretariat, drawing a strong reaction from Kejriwal who had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of orchestrating the raid and of being a “coward” and a “psychopath”.

Subsequently, the Delhi government had approached the courts for return of its documents. In March, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to return the files taken away by it during the raid to the Delhi government.

On Monday, while Kejriwal was away to Punjab – his party is actively campaigning for the 2017 assembly elections – his deputy Manish Sisodia lashed out at the Modi regime for arresting the Delhi government officials in the graft case and transferring out an assistant secretary on the same day in a bid to paralyse the government.

He said that despite such attempts, the Delhi government would continue to run well.  Sisodia indicated that the Centre was rattled by AAP’s growing popularity in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat. He also decried the questioning of Delhi water minister Kapil Mishra in the tanker scam case saying it was also an attempt to paralyse the Kejriwal government. Sisodia questioned the transfer of the assistant secretary who, he claimed, was involved in the project for installation of CCTVs in schools.

Kapil Mishra, for his part, also accused the Modi government of using the entire state machinery to somehow trap Arvind Kejriwal.

He released a statement he had made to the anti corruption bureau, probing the water tanker scam, earlier in the day.  The Aam Aadmi Party has also criticised the arrests, terming them an attempt to “finish off” Kejriwal. It said the developments during the day had made it a “black day” in India’s history.

In fact such was the outrage on Twitter over the issue that #DartaModi – roughly ‘Modi is scared’ – which was re-tweeted by @ArvindKejriwal and @AamAadmiParty, began trending.

Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken also jumped into the debate on the issue and slammed Sisodia for defending Rajendra Kumar.

On behalf of the BJP, its spokesperson Sambit Patra said on a news channel: “I don’t know why AAP should be defending Rajendra Kumar to this extent. Rather than discussing routine transfers, the main issue is Rajendra Kumar. Kejriwal and AAP had been taking the moral high ground on the issue of corruption saying no one involved in corruption should be allowed to go scot free. So why defend Rajendra Kumar, he is neither a worker nor its CM candidate for Punjab.”