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The Rise of Manish Sisodia & His Decades-Long Partnership with Arvind Kejriwal

The No 2 in the AAP and Kejriwal's right-hand man, Sisodia is in the eye of a political storm of late.

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"Arvind Kejriwal is my political guru. I will never betray him," said Manish Sisodia, after claiming that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offered to make him their chief ministerial candidate if he breaks the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The affection between the two longtime associates, seldom seen in the politics of personality-dominated governments across India, is largely evident.

After Sisodia's efforts concerning educational reforms garnered acclaim from The New York Times, Kejriwal called him "the best education minister in the world" and claimed that that is the reason he is being targeted by the BJP.

His comments came close on the heels of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducting raids at the residence of the Delhi deputy chief minister, who has been in the eye of a political storm of late over the state's excise policy.

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The No. 2 in the AAP, Sisodia has been Kejriwal's closest and oldest aide for decades, right from their days of social activism to their foray into politics and beyond.

'If Kejriwal is Our Krishna, Sisodia is Our Arjun'

"If Arvind Kejriwal is the Krishna of our party, Manish Sisodia is its Arjun; if Arvind Kejriwal is Munna, Manish Sisodia is our Circuit," AAP leader Atul Gupta told The Quint, adding that the deputy CM will do anything that Kejriwal asks him to.

Addressing the fact that such an equation is seldom seen in Indian politics currently, perhaps barring that between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, Gupta said that the relation between Sisodia and Kejriwal is "even better" than theirs.

He also said that Sisodia is Kejriwal's "shadow" and is someone who has the ability to get all kinds of work done.

Speaking on the controversy regarding the state's excise policy, Gupta said, "There is a syndicate among those who sell alcohol. He (Sisodia) has got stuck in the issue surrounding the syndicate, but I am sure he will get out of it. He has not taken any kind of bribe."

He also said that a recording, in which the BJP allegedly offered to make Sisodia the party's CM face, will be released at an "opportune moment."

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Who is Manish Sisodia? 

Hailing from the Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh, Sisodia had a career in journalism before entering social activism and politics.

He worked as a radio jockey at an FM station and hosted a number of programmes for All India Radio, such as "Zero Hour". He was also a reporter for Zee News from 1997-2005.

From the early 2000s to 2011, he was engaged in social activism and worked closely with Kejriwal in organisations that the two started together, which were aimed at addressing issues like corruption, public welfare, justice etc.

One of the founding members of the AAP, Sisodia became a member of its political affairs committee in 2012.
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Kejriwal & Sisodia: A Decades-Old Partnership 

The association between Sisodia and Kejriwal goes back to the days of Parivartan, a public welfare organisation the two helmed together during the 2000s.

Parivartan was involved in grassroots activism, and addressed the grievances of citizens regarding several issues, like electricity, social welfare, Public Distribution System (PDS) etc through Right to Information (RTI).

The organisation also worked towards ensuring that people could get their work completed in different departments of the government without paying bribes.

Parivartan was run on individual donations and was said to be based on "jan andolan" or "people's movement." The work done by the organisation also earned Kejriwal the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006.

In 2005, Kejriwal and Sisodia co-founded another organisation named Kabir, which was also engaged in similar work. Sisodia was far more actively involved in the workings of the organisation than Kejriwal, by the latter's own admission.
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However, by 2012, both organisations had become largely inactive due to Kejriwal and Sisodia's foray into politics, which began with their participation in the frontlines of the India Against Corruption (IAC) campaign.

India Against Corruption

The IAC campaign, started in 2011 by Anna Hazare, is considered to be a watershed event for Indian politics - not for him of course, but for Kejriwal, his deputy at the time, who was catapulted to power in Delhi because of his massive popularity in the campaign.

Sisodia also played an active part in IAC, and was one among a close group of people who were seen constantly interacting with Hazare.

The campaign was the culmination of months of protests against the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, and demanded greater transparency through the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

On 28 August, 2011, thousands, if not lakhs, turned up at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan to watch Hazare break his 13-day long fast. People from all walks of life took part in the event wearing "Main Bhi Anna" (I am also Anna) caps.

Amid the disrepute garnered by the Congress-led government amid multiple scams, and the IAC's unrelenting efforts towards exposing them, the Congress began to decline rapidly - not only in the state, but nationally as well.

Not only Kejriwal's rise, even Narendra Modi's win in 2014 was in some ways a culmination of the IAC movement.

Formation of the Aam Aadmi Party

Around 2012, cracks began to appear in the IAC's 24-member core committee, and Kejriwal left the grouping to form the AAP along with Sisodia.

After deciding to enter politics, the AAP led a laborious campaign with extremely limited resources against the then Congress government in Delhi.

In the 2013 election, the AAP, led by its core team comprising Kejriwal, Sisodia, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan among others, finished second with 28 seats in the 70-seat Assembly, behind the saffron party, which won 32 seats.

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Sisodia was elected to the Delhi Legislative Assembly for the first time after defeating the BJP's Nakul Bhardwaj by more than 11,000 votes in the 2013 election.

After much deliberation, the AAP formed a coalition government with the Congress, which was reduced to a mere eight seats in the polls. The government, however, lasted less than two months.

The AAP achieved a landslide victory in the 2015 Assembly polls, winning a whopping 67 seats in the 70-member Assembly, and retained its political dominance in the 2020 polls as well - winning 62 seats.

Sisodia as Delhi Government's Number Two

In the first AAP government, Sisodia was given key portfolios in the state, such as education, Public Works Department (PWD), urban development, land and building etc.

In the 2015 election, Sisodia more than doubled his winning margin, and defeated the saffron party's Vinod Kumar Binny by more than 28,000 votes. The AAP also came back to power in this election, winning more than 95 percent of the seats in the Assembly.

Subsequently, Sisodia took up greater responsibilities in the Cabinet, handling the finance, tourism and women and children ministries among others.

After winning the 2020 Assembly elections, it was obvious that Sisodia was running the AAP administration in the state, as Kejriwal did not take up any ministries and focussed more on AAP's national expansion.

The deputy CM also stepped into the CM's shoes on a number of occasions when Kejriwal was touring the country amid his efforts to increase the AAP's national footprint.

Among all the portfolios he has been given, Sisodia has received much acclaim, most recently by The New York Times, for his work as education minister.

CBI Case Against Sisodia

The Delhi government's Excise Policy 2021-22, launched on 17 November 2021, was touted to aid the reform of the retail liquor sector, improve consumer experience, and augment revenue by Rs 9,500 crore.

The new policy introduced by the Kejriwal government sought to shut down 600 government-operated vends to pave way for swanky, new, privately-owned shops – marking the exit of the government from selling liquor.

The policy was, however, withdrawn by the Delhi government in July 2022, after Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe into alleged discrepancies in the policy's implementation.

The L-G's decision was based on a report by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, which listed alleged irregularities in the implementation of the policy.

The CBI on 19 August listed 16 accused, including Sisodia, in its FIR on the alleged excise scam, following its 12-hour-long raids at the AAP leader's residence.

The central investigation agency has named Sisodia as the prime accused in the case, which has been registered under Indian Penal Code sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Aam Aadmi Party   Manish Sisodia   Delhi 

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