“Like liquor, power too intoxicates. You are intoxicated by power, it seems.” This is one of many scathing lines in social activist Anna Hazare’s letter to his former mentee, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, over his government liquor licence policy, which was withdrawn in July after a corruption case.
“This is the first time I am writing to you since you became chief minister, because I am pained at recent news reports about your government’s liquor policy,” the letter, in Hindi, says at the outset.
“You had written idealistic things on liquor policies in your book ‘Swaraj’, for which you got me to write the introduction,” he says, quoting from it that no liquor shops be opened without area residents’ approval. “You have forgotten those ideals after becoming chief minister.”
Mr Hazare says he sees the Aam Aadmi Party “formed by you, Manish Sisodia and others” as “no different from any other party now”.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who handles Delhi government’s excise portfolio among many others, is one of 15 accused named in the FIR.
The excise policy had brought in private players into the liquor trade, leading to better availability and competitive prices. The AAP had argued it would finish off liquor mafia and the grey market, while increasing revenue. But corruption allegations meant the policy — introduced in November last year — was withdrawn eight months later as the CBI started looking into it.
“Such a wrong liquor policy won’t have been formed anywhere in India, had we stuck to being a pressure group, and carried out an awareness drive, like I suggested,” writes Mr Hazare.
“Rather than bringing in a strong Lokpal and anti-corruption laws, you brought in this liquor policy that is anti-people, particularly anti-women,” he says further, citing his village Ralegan Siddhi and state Maharashtra as ideals on liquor policy.
“In Delhi, liquor shops were being opened in every corner of the city… People seem to be trapped in a circle of money for power and power for money. It doesn’t suit a party that emerged from a major movement,” he says.
Anna Hazare was the face of the anti-corruption movement in 2011, from which the AAP emerged. At the time, while choosing to stay out of the party — avoiding electoral politics — he gave it his “blessings”. But he has since criticised the party on several points. Mr Kejriwal and his party have avoided direct counters.
Meanwhile, in the ongoing probe today, Manish Sisodia’s bank lockers were examined. His house had been raided earlier. He claimed that since “nothing” was found by the central government’s probe agency at his home or in the bank, “I have got a clean chit from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
The CBI did not immediately release any statement.
The agency alleges that, not only was the policy introduced without required permission of the Lieutenant Governor, but many ineligible vendors were also awarded licences in exchange for bribes.
Chief Minister Kejriwal, in a tweet, said the probe is “inspired by dirty politics”.
The AAP has been saying that the BJP is incensed at being a tiny minority in the Delhi assembly despite being in power at the Centre. “They are scared of Arvind Kejriwal’s rising national profile,” the party has said.