What’s Delhi Liquor Scam?
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has been arrested by the CBI in connection with the capital’s now-scrapped liquor sales policy, thrusting the case into the spotlight once again.
The investigation relates to the now-withdrawn Delhi liquor sales policy introduced in 2021. Manish Sisodia is the head of Delhi’s excise department, which is how he has come into the line of fire.
Under the policy, in a departure from norms in most states, the government no longer had anything to do with selling liquor and allowed only private shops to do so. The central aim was to stop black marketing, increase revenue and improve the consumer experience.
It also allowed the home delivery of liquor and shops to stay open till 3 am. Licensees could also offer unlimited discounts. The government reported a substantial 27 per cent increase in income from the policy, generating around ₹ 8,900 crore.
However, the reforms soon ran into trouble, first with the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police, which reports to the BJP-led government at the centre. Then, with Delhi’s new Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, also a representative of the central government.
Citing a report from Delhi’s top bureaucrat which accused Mr Sisodia of bending rules and providing undue benefits to liquor vend licensees, Mr Saxena asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.
Not long after, Manish Sisodia said the policy was going to be cancelled because the BJP was using the investigating agencies it controls to intimidate vendors. He also blamed Mr Saxena’s predecessor Anil Baijal for a “last-minute change” that crippled the reforms.
Until his arrest today, Mr Sisodia had not been named in the chargesheet filed by the agency. But last year, the CBI raided 31 locations, including his home. The agency did not find anything incriminating, the minister said – a stand not challenged by the agency.
Separately, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also launched a probe into the Delhi liquor scam, alleging money laundering, and claimed a liquor lobby dubbed the “South Group” paid at least ₹ 100 crore in kickbacks to AAP for its Goa election campaign via one of the arrested businessmen.
The ED widened the scope of the probe, going as far as to implicate K Kavitha, daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, another strident critic of the BJP, and arresting her former accountant. It claimed the policy caused a ₹ 2,800 crore loss to the government.
The AAP has dismissed all charges and said the investigation is the BJP’s attempt to settle political scores. However, it has maintained that it will cooperate with investigators. Party boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said, “There is no such thing as a liquor scam. We formulated the best and most transparent policy in the country.”
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