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What Manish Sisodia's Arrest Means for AAP & Arvind Kejriwal's National Plans

Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was arrested by the CBI in connection with the liquor policy case.

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(Video Producer/Editor: Shohini Bose)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Delhi's deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Sunday, 26 February, after over nine hours of questioning in the liquor policy case.

Sisodia who heads 18 departments of the Delhi government is facing probe in two cases, one involving alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy, and second in connection with the creation of a ‘feedback unit’ to collect political intelligence against the AAP’s rivals.

What does the arrest of Manish Sisodia — the second-in-command in Delhi government and one of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's most trusted aides — mean for AAP?

We'll get to that.

But First, A Quick Recap

Early morning on Sunday, before going to the CBI office, Sisodia, while addressing the people of Delhi said he is "not scared of false and fabricated charges."

"I may have to stay in jail for 7-8 months but the country needs a leader like you (...Arvind Kejriwal). Continue serving the people. We have full faith in you. We are not going to get scared of these jails, false and fabricated cases. Even CBI-ED who have filed these fake cases, know that we have not done anything wrong, They are under pressure.”
Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi
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As he went in for questioning, elaborate security arrangements were made outside Sisodia's house and the CBI office with the Delhi Police detaining several AAP workers and leaders for protesting.

A series of press conferences were addressed by leaders from both AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticising and justifying the questioning and subsequent arrest of Sisodia.

"The BJP has been saying Manish Sisodia is corrupt. But they haven't been able to prove any allegation against him. His arrest is a matter of attacking AAP and Kejriwal's popularity," said AAP leader Atishi.

Even Chief Minister Kejriwal came out in Sisodia's defence and termed his arrest "politically motivated".

The BJP, meanwhile, said that "event management cannot save the AAP from the law." At a press conference, party spokesperson Sambit Patra asked why Arvind Kejriwal or his party never explained why they withdrew excise policy.

"Manish Sisodia and other AAP leaders never explained why they withdrew excise policy after corruption was flagged. Delhi excise policy was leaked to liquor-contractor by AAP before it was sent to group of ministers," said Patra.

To know more about the liquor policy controversy read The Quint's explainer here.
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What Does This Mean for AAP and Kejriwal's National Ambitions

Manish Sisodia is the second AAP minister to face probe in corruption charges after party minister Satyender Jain was arrested in 2022 over money laundering charges.

Jain's arrest came on the heels of the Himachal Pradesh elections, forcing the party to recalibrate their campaign in the hill state. A section of party leaders also believe that Jain's arrested damaged their chances in Himachal despite an overwhelming victory in Punjab.

Speaking to The Quint on condition of anonymity, a senior AAP leader in Delhi accepted the party leadership is concerned by the constant scrutiny of the agencies. "The top leadership fears that this might impact the party's chances in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections," the leader said.

In the AAP, a party often accused of concentration of power in the hands of the high-command, Manish Sisodia is one of Kejriwal's most trusted people. He is also the face of AAP's education model.

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The Timing of the Arrest

Sisodia's arrest also comes only weeks before the Delhi Government’s Budget Session — expected in the first half of March.

He was asked to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation last Sunday for questioning, but he sought more time, citing the pending Delhi budget.

Earlier, he had faced a nine-hour questioning session by the Enforcement Directorate officials, after which he claimed the officials had asked him to quit AAP.

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