In virtual declaration of war against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in power in New Delhi, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today arrested Rajendra Kumar, IAS officer of the UT cadre, principal secretary to the chief minister and a trusted and close aide of Arvind Kejriwal, on charges of alleged corruption.
The Delhi government has not responded to the provocation so far but is unlikely to stand by and watch.The story begins in December 2014 when Transparency International India, an anti-corruption watchdog, got a 3-page handwritten letter from someone 'who seems like a whistleblower', said Rama Nath Jha, Executive Director and successor to Ashutosh Mishra, who was in charge at the time.
"When we got the letter, we followed standard operating procedure and forwarded the letter to the Delhi chief minister where Rajendra Kumar was working, the CBI, CVC and all other anti-corruption agencies of the government. The letter to Kejriwal sent by Transparency International in May 2015, said that a case of disproportionate assets had been received and the CBI moved remarkably quickly.
By February 2016, it had registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) and two or three members of Kumar's staff were called for questioning. According to the letter, says Jha, Kumar, in collaboration with a former school friend of his, one Ashok Kumar - the two studied together in a school in Netarhat - floated several companies including one called Endeavour Systems Private Limited, with Ashok Kumar's brother-in-law, Sandeep, who is an office superintendent in Rajendra Kumar's office and bagged contracts amounting to crores of rupees without having done any tendering.
The contracts related to providing software, computers andother administrative supplies. The companies operated in all the departments that Rajendra Kumar was posted in. "SAP India asks if Rs 1.25 crore was not provided to an officer in the Rs 20 crore deal with Transco", the author of the unsigned letter asks.
The letter charges that a string of companies was created in the last seven or eight years and has asked that the government enquire into the ownership of the companies - all of which have the same address - with the RoC. He suggested that the government enquire whether these companies were engaged in bogus donations to AAP.
On the basis of this letter, the CBI registered a case that "prima facie reflect criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct and abuse of official position by the accused persons".
Kejriwal, even at that time, made a big issue of the procedural lapses supposedly adopted by the CBI in calling Kumar for questioning. He charged that his office, including his laptop and other files were also searched by the CBI. The entire AAP protested against the way the CBI had entered the CM's office.
But today, after the arrest of Rajendra Kumar, AAP is mulling the strategy to adopt. There is hardly any doubt that with the battle already joined in Punjab, the government is gunning for the AAP leadership to destroy its credibility. One option available to Kejriwal is to own moral responsibility, resign, put Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in charge of Delhi and fight the Punjab election.
On the other hand, if he decided to fight it out here, the chances of mud sticking to him are high.The political fight will intensify in the coming days as others including the Congress and the BJP take up the refrain. Delhi is unlikely to be a tranquil place in the days to come.