The CBI on Friday quizzed Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia for “clarifications” in connection with a preliminary enquiry against him related to alleged irregularities in the “Talk to AK” campaign.
The agency had asked Sisodia for a convenient time and place for an interaction. The AAP leader is understood to have called a CBI team at his residence, sources said.The sleuths kept “seeking clarifications” for over six hours at his residence, they said.
The CBI sources said a similar exercise had already been carried out with other people linked to the campaign including Dilip Cherian, the head of well-known public relations company Perfect Relations. A message sent to Cherian seeking his reaction remained unanswered.
The CBI had registered the PE in January on the basis of a complaint filed by the Vigilance Department of the Delhi government. The sources said no search or raid was conducted at the premises of Sisodia. According to rules, no search or raid can be carried out under a PE.
The vigilance plaint had alleged the Delhi government had hired a consultant of Perfect Relations to promote the “Talk to AK” campaign and a proposal of Rs 1.5 crore was prepared for this purpose. AK stands for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
It alleged that despite objections from the principal secretary, the government went ahead with the proposal and the consultant spent the money thereby creating a liability for the government.
The sources said the CBI had registered the PE to probe these allegations and is looking into the alleged role of Sisodia and others.
Stung by what it called a “raid” by CBI on Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the Aam Aadmi Party dubbed the central investigative agency as “Centre’s Bureau of Intimidation”.
Senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh said the “raid” on Sisodia’s residence signalled the Modi government’s “resolve” to not let the AAP regime in Delhi work.
The CBI has denied it has carried out a search or raid but only visited his house in connection with a case. “So, did they (CBI) come for tea,” Singh asked.
Displaying exasperation, Singh told a press conference that instead of the “daily harassment”, the Centre should simply suspend the Delhi government.
In a tweet, Sisodia said, “We have done nothing wrong, ready to face any probe. Will keep working for Delhi’s development without fear.”
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha added in a tweet: “Centre’s Bureau of Intimidation”.The AAP government’s tenure has been marked by intense acrimony with the BJP-led Central government.
“Today’s raid signals the resolve of the Centre to not let the AAP government work. The BJP wants to obliterate the opposition. The intention is to take revenge through relentless harassment,” Singh said.
The CBI, constituted as an autonomous body, had also raided the Delhi Secretariat in 2015, prompting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “coward and a psycopath”.
The government denies influencing CBI.
CBI officials said they “visited” the residence of Sisodia to seek clarification about a preliminary enquiry (PE) against him relating to alleged irregularities in a social media event by Kejriwal called ‘Talk to AK’.
Singh said ‘Talk to AK’, a programme to interact with the public, was held using the services of a public relations company, which did not charge the government. He said no tender was floated for the event as platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Google have no competition.
The CBI had registered the PE in January this year on the basis of a complaint filed by the Vigilance Department of the Delhi government.
“One may question why a particular PR company was chosen,” another AAP leader, Saurabh Bharadwaj, told reporters here. “That’s because the DIP (Directorate of Information and Publicity) was not capable of handling the job,” he said.
The PR firm, he added, was already working for the government and was “empanelled with it”.
“So naturally, the government approached the consultancy. We may not have gone for a tender, but the point is this company did not charge any commission,” Bharadwaj said.The complaint said despite objections from the Principal Secretary, the government went ahead with the proposal. The consultant spent money on the campaign, thereby creating a liability for the government.
“When not a penny was spent on Talk to AK programme, how does CBI come into the picture? Caged parrot not briefed properly by masters again. Caged parrot CBI feeding false info to its PROs. No consultant was hired for Talk To Ak - challenge anyone to show any payment made,” Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said in a series of tweets.
(With inputs from PTI)