In the backdrop of the arrest of Delhi’s former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, nine Opposition leaders have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the alleged misuse of central agencies against the members of the Opposition and the alleged interference of governors in federal matters.
Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on February 26 in the Delhi liquor policy scam case. On Saturday (March 4), a special court extended his CBI custody by two more days.
Calling Sisodia’s arrest a “political witch-hunt,” the letter says the allegations against him are not only baseless but “smack of a political conspiracy.”
The letter says Sisodia’s arrest only proves that India’s democratic values stand threatened under “an authoritarian” BJP regime.
Also read: Govt using CBI, ED as “personal revenge-seeking departments”: Cong
The signatories to the letter are Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, BRS chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, National Congress leader Farooq Abdullah, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
It says since the BJP formed government at the Centre in 2014, a chunk of cases filed, arrests and interrogations done by central agencies targeted leaders of Opposition.
However, investigation agencies showed leniency towards Opposition politicians who shifted to the BJP, the letter says, citing names such as Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was formerly in the Congress, and was probed by the CBI and the ED in 2014 and 2015 in the Sarada Chit Fund scam; and Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy, former leaders of TMC who were being probed by the ED and CBI in the Narada sting operation case.
The letter says that since PM Modi took reins of the government in 2014, there has been a marked rise in the number of raids, cases lodged against and arrest of Opposition leaders. This includes RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut, NCP’s Anil Deshmukh and TMC’s Abhishek Banerjee.
Nine Opposition leaders including Arvind Kejriwal have written to PM Modi on the arrest of former Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia in the excise policy case. They have stated that the action appears to suggest that “we have transitioned from being a democracy to an autocracy”. pic.twitter.com/ohXn3rNuxI
— ANI (@ANI) March 5, 2023
“In many such cases, the timings of the cases lodged or arrests made have coincided with elections making it abundantly clear that they were politically motivated,” the letter read.
Accusing the agencies of misplacing their priorities, the letter, without taking names seeks to know why the agencies didn’t investigate the Adani issue after a Hindenburg Research report accused the company of stock manipulation and accounting fraud, which in turn led to losses of over ₹78,000 crore in market capitalisation of shares for government-owned LIC and SBI.
‘Interference of governors threat to cooperative federalism’
Raising concerns over the alleged interference of governors in matters of state governance, the Opposition leaders say governors were “wilfully undermining democratically elected state governments and choosing instead to obstruct governance as per their whims and fancies.”
Also read: As rows with governors escalate, state govts seek legislative redress
The letter says governors of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, Telangana and the lieutenant governor of Delhi have become the “face of the widening rift between the Centre and states run by the non-BJP governments and threaten the spirit of cooperative federalism.”
The leaders said the ‘misuse’ of central agencies and governors outside the ambit of electoral battlefield to settle political scores is a trend that doesn’t augur well for the democracy.