NEW DELHI: Amid the escalating political war of words between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the BJP has alleged that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was the 'kingpin' in the liquor scam after Deputy CM and Kejriwal's close aide Manish Sisodia was named as an accused in the case by the CBI.
Several top BJP leaders, apart from the party's Delhi unit have upped the political tirade against Kejriwal along with Sisodia.
Though the political image with which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was founded owes credit to social activist Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption, Kejriwal has been winning elections for three successive terms in Delhi and the party recently formed the government in Punjab. The AAP has now started projecting itself as a party fighting against corruption and is making this its major poll issue.
The AAP is now expanding its foothold in other parts of the country and is fast emerging as a national party and posing a direct political challenge to the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, Anna Hazare did not support Kejriwal's move to float his own political party and after the formation of AAP, several co-founders of the party were either expelled or left the party on their own.
Manish Sisodia is the lone AAP leader, who is an active party member along with Kejriwal in running the government in Delhi. Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh is another key AAP leader trying to build the party at the organisational level.
Kejriwal is seen to be the most popular AAP face in the states where the party is trying to expand its footprint.
If Kejriwal, who entered into politics after fighting the battle against corruption, also gets embroiled in a corruption case, then it will likely dent his clean political image. This is the reason why the BJP is repeatedly seen targeting the Delhi Chief Minister directly.
Union Minister and BJP leader Anurag Thakur has held Kejriwal solely responsible for the liquor scam, adding that Manish Sisodia is the accused in the scam but the 'kingpin' is Kejriwal.
Thakur took a dig at Kejriwal's 'number one' leader remark and further said that the AAP chief is the most corrupt leader.
After targeting the AAP government for distributing freebies to people, the BJP has slammed the AAP government over the liquor scam.
Thakur further described the Delhi government as 'Revdi (freebies) Sarkar' and 'Bewdi (drunkards) Sarkar' and asked the AAP whether Kejriwal was himself involved in returning over Rs 144 crore to the liquor mafia without the requisite consent taken by the Delhi Cabinet.
Both former and current Delhi BJP chiefs -- Manoj Tiwari and Adesh Gupta -- have accused Kejriwal of directly benefitting the liquor mafia, adding that the Delhi government bypassed all the rules and regulations by allowing opening of liquor shops near residential areas, schools and religious places like temples and mosques.
Tiwari, while demanding accountability of Rs 8,100 crore from Kejriwal has also alleged that the AAP contested the recent Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and other states with the commission money received from the liquor scam.
BJP MP Pravesh Verma went a step further and accused the Delhi Chief Minister of formulating a new excise policy by holding meetings at hotels in Delhi where Sisodia and the government officials as well as liquor mafia were also present.
Harsh Vardhan, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Delhi and former Union Minister, also targeted Kejriwal and said that the people have witnessed large-scale corruption committed by the Delhi government. He even said that if there is any morality left in the AAP leaders, they should resign immediately.
Speaking to the media on Saturday, a day after the CBI raid at Sisodia's residence, the AAP is downplaying the raids after Sisodia claimed that Kejriwal is emerging as an alternative to Narendra Modi at the national level. "That's why the BJP government is afraid of Kejriwal," Sisodia said.
Sisodia also claimed that the 2024 Lok Sabha election will be Arvind Kejriwal vs Narendra Modi.
Reacting to Sisodia's allegations, Union Minister Anurag Thakur took a jibe at the AAP and said that these people (AAP) also made several poll promises and tried (to defeat Modiji) in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well in the recent Assembly elections held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa but were defeated by Prime Minister Modi.
Thakur said that the AAP leaders had claimed to form the government with absolute majority in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, but their candidates' lost their seat deposits. The same situation is going to happen during the upcoming Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat as well, he added.
Thakur said that in 2014 the BJP had won 282 seats, in 2019 it won 303 seats and in 2024, the Modi government will be formed for the third time at the Centre by winning with an even bigger margin of seats.