The CBI arrested Delhi deputy chief minister and AAP leader Manish Sisodia in a liquor case after eight hours of questioning on Sunday.
The arrest capped a day on which Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched an all-out attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS on the Adanis, China and Kashmir.
The action also came just ahead of the tour of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in four poll-bound states.
The case traces its roots to allegations of corruption in allotting liquor trade licences in November 2021 to private players after state-run firms exited the business.
The new liquor policy was withdrawn in July 2022.
AAP had an inkling of the arrest, with Kejriwal tweeting about it on Sunday and Sisodia visiting Raj Ghat and leading a rally to the CBI office in the morning.
Police imposed prohibitory orders around the CBI headquarters and detained several people. Some municipal councillors of the party were also confined by the police in their homes.
Sisodia is the second minister in the Kejriwal government, after Satyendar Jain, to be arrested on corruption charges.
The former handles education and the latter health — both key ministries on which AAP’s “Delhi Model” stands.
Sisodia practically runs the government, leaving Kejriwal to manage the affairs of the party. A party source said the arrest could affect Kejriwal’s travel plans. AAP banked on a double spectacle of showing its strength on the street without calling for a bandh and Sisodia tugging at heartstrings.
At Raj Ghat, Sisodia said he has asked Kejriwal to take care of his wife who is ill. In a statement, Sisodia, who holds the education portfolio, said: “Don’t think that if Manish chacha is going to jail, holidays have started…. I will not eat if you don’t study properly.”
He tweeted: “Today again I am going to CBI. I will fully cooperate with the entire investigation. The love of lakhs of children and the blessings of crores of countrymen are with me....”
The new liquor policy was dropped after Lieutenant-Governor V.K. Saxena sought a CBI probe following a report from chief secretary Naresh Kumar that alleged corruption in the allocation of liquor licences to private parties and losses to the exchequer. In a statement, the CBI referred to “alleged irregularities in framing and implementation of the Excise Policy... and extending post-tender benefits to private persons”.
“He gave evasive replies and did not cooperate with the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary. Therefore, he has been arrested,” the CBI added.
After Sisodia’s arrest, Kejriwal and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann, who is in the capital, met Sisodia’s wife. AAP found support from the Samajwadi Party and Trinamul. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav tweeted: “The arrest of Manish Sisodia has proved that the BJP government has already accepted its defeat before 2024, that is why it is implicating the opposition political forces in different states in false cases, but the struggling people are not afraid of going to jail. How long can the truth be kept under arrest?”
Trinamul Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien tweeted: “If @msisodia had got himself a #BJP brand of washing machine, he would never have been arrested. Bravo, Manish Allies ShivSena, SADal, JD(U) TDP & others have all abandoned BJP. Only CBI, ED, IT remain true allies. Targeting Opposition leaders is the DESPERATE DUO’S favorite job.”