NewDelhi/Nagpur: The BJP came out all guns blazing at the Aam Aadmi Party on Thursday as senior ministers dismissed charges of financial misconduct levelled against finance minister Arun Jaitley and accused Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of using “falsehood” and “political hysteria” to shield corrupt officials.
Human resource development minister Smriti Irani said a 2013 probe by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office couldn’t find any evidence against Jaitley while probing alleged irregularities in Delhi’s cricket body that he headed for over a decade.
The strong rebuttal came hours after the AAP called for Jaitley’s resignation, saying a number of private firms were benefitted through false billing, duplication of work, skirting around financial norms and massive fraud in the DDCA that oversees cricket in the Capital.
“The BJP stands resolutely behind Arun Jaitley and publicly condemns AAP’s malicious intention to deflect public attention from a corrupt official in Kejriwal’s office,” said Irani.
In a separate post on social media, Jaitley said no personal allegation was ever made against him in relation to the DDCA and pointed out he quit cricket administration in 2013.
“Free speech is unquestionably a pre-eminent fundamental right, but does free speech include the right to speak only falsehood? The Delhi chief minister, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, seems to believe in untruth and defamation, delivered in a language that borders on hysteria.”
The acrimonious war of words that has pit Delhi’s ruling party against the Centre was triggered by a controversial CBI raid on Tuesday on Kejriwal’s office. The CM condemned the raid and called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a coward and a psychopath while the AAP alleged the investigators wanted to lay their hands on DDCA scam files.
But the BJP denied the allegations and demanded an apology from Kejriwal for his words with Jaitley telling Parliament the raid was conducted in connection with corruption charges against Kejriwal’s secretary, Rajendra Kumar.
Former cricketer Chetan Chauhan, who heads the Delhi and District Cricket Association, also rejected AAP’s charges and issued a point-by-point rebuttal, saying they had nothing to hide.
“We want complete transparency. All allegations are baseless. We have spent money like misers,” he told reporters.
In his post, Jaitley also countered Kejriwal’s charge that the Centre had violated India’s federal structure by ordering the CBI raid, saying a state could also be a threat to federalism by its unacceptable conduct.
“During the UPA government, the Delhi government, with no police or investigative powers, registered an FIR against two Union cabinet ministers for voluntarily implementing a decision of the cabinet. If state governments start investigating decisions of the Union cabinet there can be no greater threat to federalism.”
“If the Union government were to consider using against the Delhi CM the adjectives that Mr. Kejriwal used against the PM, it would be legitimate to contend that this is not in consonance with the federal spirit,” Jaitley wrote, condemning West Bengal and Bihar chief ministers, Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar respectively, for backing Kejriwal.
“Why should two eminent CMs lend themselves to support the blatant falsehood of Delhi’s CM?”
He also rejected AAP’s allegation that money allocated for a DDCA stadium’s construction was siphoned off.
“There are fake allegations such as escalation of cost of construction of a stadium. When work expands, cost escalations are integral.”
He also compared the cost of the stadium – Rs 114 crore – to two stadia renovated by the UPA that stood at Rs 900 and 600 crore, respectively.