Pushed by Rivals to Sack Jain, Kejriwal Backs Him, Says Minister ‘Targeted because of Political Reasons’

Aam Aadmi Party national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday broke his silence on the arrest of his health minister Satyendar Jain. “I have personally studied this case. This is a completely false case. We do not tolerate corruption, we do not indulge in corruption. We have an honest government. He has been targeted because of political reasons,” he said.

The chief minister also expressed faith in the judiciary, saying that the arrested minister follows the “path of truth” and will “come out clean”.

Kejriwal has come under pressure from opposition parties to act against Jain after the AAP convener lauded Punjab chief minister and party colleague Bhagwant Mann for sacking his health minister Vijay Singla, who is now behind bars over corruption charges.

In fact, in political rallies that Kejriwal addressed following Singla’s arrest, he argued that the step was evidence of an “honest government at work” since the alleged demand for commission was not known yet either to the various agencies or the media. In the matter of Jain, however, Kejriwal has not only reposed faith in his minister but has also said that AAP does not wait for agencies and that he would have taken action, had there been any merit in the case.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s tweet following the minister’s arrest was an indicator of the stand of both the party and the government on the arrest of Jain. Coming out in support of his colleague, Sisodia had tweeted, “An eight-year-old false case is being used against Satyendar Jain, he has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate multiple times. In fact, for some years in between, ED had even stopped summoning Jain as it had no evidence. Now, as Satyendar Jain is in charge of Himachal Pradesh, ED has started targeting him.”

In the same tweet, Sisodia alleged that the arrest of Jain has been triggered by the BJP’s fear of losing Himachal Pradesh and it is a bid to ensure Jain cannot visit the poll-bound state. However, the minister will be free soon as the case is false, the deputy CM added. Later, the same evening, AAP Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh held a press conference and termed the arrest “politically motivated”.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s digital address on January 23, 2022, where he had alleged that the Narendra Modi government was planning to arrest Jain just ahead of Punjab elections indicates that top leaders in the party were alert to such a possibility. Kejriwal had gone on to assert that AAP welcomed any such moves and that the central government could send the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), etc, and arrest anyone it wanted, including him.

AAP and Kejriwal’s defence of Satyendar Jain comes in the face of mounting pressure by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress alleging that it is the Delhi CM who has “protected” the minister for years and demanding that Jain be fired. Opposition parties have also underlined the sacking and arrest of former Punjab health minister Singla on charges of bribery to argue that the same treatment should be meted out to Jain.

The BJP has rubbished AAP’s claim of “political vendetta”. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Gaurav Bhatia, spokesperson of the BJP, asked whether the court had given any relief to Jain and when Kejriwal took action against Singla, why not against Jain?

While it will be the courts that will finally decide whether Satyendar Jain is guilty of the various charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, in the political theatre, AAP seems to be not just drawing strength but also political capital from three factors: one is Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann’s action against their own ministers when presented with “proof of corruption”, which AAP uses to embellish its credentials of being an “honest party” that is fast emerging as a national alternative. Second, the failure of prosecution agencies to prove charges slapped against AAP MLAs and ministers after raids and arrests, subsequently leading to the acquittal of scores of these legislators. Sanjay Singh, AAP Rajya Sabha member, said on Monday, “BJP got 34 AAP MLAs arrested in false cases who later secured acquittal from the courts.” And, thirdly, the growing chorus from the opposition to take a joint stand against the misuse of central agencies to settle political scores.

Just a couple of months back, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had written to counterparts of non-BJP-ruled states and various other opposition leaders to resist the ruling BJP’s intention to suppress rivals using these central agencies, and had elicited support from Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.

On Tuesday, Kapil Sibal, who recently quit the Congress to become an independent MP with the support of the Samajwadi Party, tweeted, “Satyendar Jain arrested under PMLA for alleged money laundering. PMLA’s misuse rampant. A weapon that often serves not legal but political ends.”

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