'Transitioned From a Democracy to an Autocracy,' Opposition Leaders Tell Modi on Sisodia's Arrest

By behaving in this way, the opposition leaders have said, the Central agencies and governors are losing their credibility.

New Delhi: Leaders of eight opposition parties have together written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s arrest. They have also said that Central agencies – the CBI in Sisodia’s case – are being misused, as is the office of the governor.

“The blatant misuse of central agencies against the members of the opposition appears to suggest that we have transitioned from being a democracy to an autocracy,” the letter stated, adding that the allegations against Sisodia “are outrightly baseless and smack of a political conspiracy”.

Sisodia was arrested on February 26 in a case pertaining to the Delhi government’s now-revoked excise policy.

The letter to Modi is signed by nine leaders – two from the Aam Aadmi Party (Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Singh Mann), K. Chandrashekar Rao of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

“Manish Sisodia is recognised globally for transforming Delhi’s school education. His arrest will be cited worldwide as an example of a political witch-hunt and further confirm what the world was only suspecting – that India’s democratic values stand threatened under an authoritarian BJP regime,” the letter stated.

While focusing on opposition leaders and acting speedily in any case against them, the letter says, the agencies have their “priorities misplaced” and are ignoring the serious allegations of wrongdoing levelled against the Adani group (though the company is not explicitly mentioned). “It is clear that these agencies have their priorities misplaced. Following the publication of an international forensic financial research report, SBI and LIC have reportedly lost over Rs 78,000 crores in market capitalisation of their shares due to exposure to a certain firm. Why have the central agencies not been pressed into service to investigate the firm’s financial irregularities despite the public money at stake?”

The use of Central agencies is not the only method in play to attack the country’s federal structure, the letter states: “The offices of the Governors across the country are acting in violation of the constitutional provisions and frequently hindering the governance of the state. They are wilfully undermining democratically elected state governments and choosing instead to obstruct governance as per their whims and fancies.”

By behaving in this way, the opposition leaders have said, the Central agencies and governors are losing their credibility. “The misuse of central agencies and constitutional offices like that of the Governor – to settle scores outside of the electoral battlefield is strongly condemnable as it does not bode well for our democracy. The manner in which these agencies have been used since 2014 has tarnished their image and raised questions about their autonomy and impartiality. The faith of the people of India in these agencies continues to erode.”

The Congress, unsurprisingly, is not a signatory of the letter. While Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary and senior leader Sandeep Dikshit had welcomed Sisodia’s arrest, the party high command had criticised the misuse of Central agencies but never named Sisodia or defended him in particular.