Is Manish Sisodia paying the price for not standing up to Arvind Kejriwal, his boss? Is he the victim of a bigger plot to destabilise the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) administration, as the party has long claimed?
There is little question that the AAP has been in the sights of the Modi administration since India’s newest party startled the world by capturing 67 of the 70 Delhi assembly seats in 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was winning state after state at the time, was humiliated.
The AAP’s Sequence of Unfortunate Events began immediately. The first attack occurred when the federal government assumed control of the anti-corruption agency, which had been under the jurisdiction of the Delhi administration since 1967.
The darts never stopped flying. But the current problem is more difficult than ever.
Manish Sisodia is not your typical leader. He should not be considered merely as the second-in-command in the party and administration. Before his imprisonment, he was in charge of 18 ministries and was the backbone of the Delhi administration, receiving widespread acclaim for his efforts to improve education in government schools. He contributed to the notion that, in an era of contentious politics, only the AAP administration is concerned with the country’s future via education.
Manish Sisodia was the Anna Hazare movement’s poster child before becoming a minister. He, together with Arvind Kejriwal, founded the anti-corruption campaign. Manish Sisodia was working with Kejriwal on the subject of corruption even before Anna Hazare went on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. He was instrumental in strategizing and making Anna Hazare the face of the campaign, which shook the foundation of the Manmohan Singh administration and eventually led to the Congress’s resignation from the center, after which Narendra Modi was appointed Prime Minister.If Manish Sisodia is charged with corruption today, severe doubts will be raised not just about his honesty but also about the Anna movement’s integrity.
The AAP was successful in Delhi and Punjab because it was seen as a movement opposed to established politics. It was a rebellion against an institution that had been wrecked by corruption, criminality, conspiracy, money, and muscular power.
Politics after independence was filled with idealism, but after 1970, it became the new term for power at whatever cost; it became a business, a money-making company, which, in the name of the people’s mandate, was doing everything that was against the interests of the people. It started to be associated with corruption.
It was no surprise that the Anna movement received widespread support. The Anna movement opposed the customary neta. It was a call for a new political culture.
The Anna movement was hailed as a beacon of hope when it converted into a political party and became AAP. Against all projections and analysis, the AAP won 67 assembly seats, shattering the notion of an “invincible” Modi.
What is most at risk with Manish Sisodia’s detention is AAP’s moral capital, which helped it win 92 of 117 seats in Punjab. That was no ordinary triumph. The AAP tsunami annihilated established and entrenched political parties and leaders. Parkash Singh Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh were defeated on their own soil. This was nothing less than a miracle. That was feasible because the people of Punjab, like those of Delhi, abandoned established politics in favour of AAP in the hope of finding something fresh.
Yet, in its eagerness to conquer new territories, AAP began to make concessions. It began to act like other parties. Instead of engaging in its basic doctrine, it started dabbling in community politics. After using crowdfunding to fund its first assembly election in 2013, the party began looking for new ways to raise election funds.That was a trap, and it stepped right into it. It was the Delhi liquor policy.
I’m not clear what role Manish Sisodia played in it, but there are major issues, and the AAP has yet to provide sufficient explanations. The AAP took a risk by cartelizing Delhi’s liquor policy, unaware that Big Brother (the Centre) was watching.
The troubles for the AAP started with the shift of the Lieutenant Governor in Delhi. Vinay Kumar Saxena, the new lieutenant governor, was no Anil Baijal. He ordered a CBI investigation within days of entering office. Big leaders’ homes were searched, and arrests were made. For no apparent reason, AAP called a news conference and announced the repeal of the alcohol policy.
Manish Sisodia chastised Anil Baijal for his inconsistent liquor policy.This was a personal objective. There was no need to rescind the liquor policy if there was nothing wrong with it. The BJP now has a weapon to use against the AAP administration as a result of this decision. It became more difficult for AAP to defend itself. The agencies were standing by.
The arrest of Vijay Nayyar, Kejriwal’s blue-eyed kid, and the AAP’s high-profile communication in-charge signalled that the authorities would go for the big fish as well.
The CBI designated Manish Sisodia as Accused Number One in its FIR but did not identify him in the following chargesheet. According to sources, the CBI was waiting for more significant proof and would not hesitate to arrest Sisodia once the money trail reached his residence.
I’m not sure whether the money trail has reached Sisodia’s doorway or if it’s just another ploy to shift attention away from the Adani problem. But one thing is certain: this is the largest crisis in AAP’s history, and it will be tough to recover from.
If the CBI has chosen to arrest a significant leader like Manish Sisodia, it can’t be done in a vacuum. If the charges are true, Sisodia, like Satyendar Jain, would have a tough time getting out of prison.
There is no doubt that this is a pivotal time for AAP. If it can escape uninjured, AAP will be around for a long time. If not, this is a significant existential issue and a threat to AAP’s horizontal growth plans. This is the true test of its inner fortitude and tenacity.
Will AAP do it? It is the most important question.