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Court order to bring no relief for Kejriwal from ED’s threat

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By Sidharth Mishra

This was a week of political theatrics with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal scheduled to appear before the Special Court adjudicating in the cases filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The week before last the ED had moved the court stating that Kejriwal had refused to entertain its summons to join investigation in the Delhi liquor scam case.

As Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) built strategy to ward off the threat, like in the past, Kejriwal decided to take refuge in confines of the legislative assembly to escape the summons of the court. With Delhi assembly’s budget session in progress, the court gave Delhi chief minister relief from appearance before it till the end of the session and appear on March 16.

The court order, however, doesn’t guard him from appearance before the ED, which has issued a fresh summon for appearance this week. He may forward the same reason for non-appearance as done on Saturday last using the alibi of the ongoing budget session of the assembly.

Initially no agenda had been circulated for any legislative business on Saturday. The decision to have the vote of confidence was taken on Friday to ‘create’ legislative work to put forward a credible reason before the court for non-appearance.

Kejriwal may have got a temporary relief and bought some precious time but at what cost – belittling the legislative proceedings. The Vote of Confidence is moved by the treasury benches in the event of the ceremonial head of the government that is governors in the state and President at the centre asking it to do so.

In this case, Lt Governor VK Saxena is not known to have given any such direction. There has also not been any claim by the rival political parties of Kejriwal having lost the majority on the floor of the house that he should seek a vote of confidence. It’s clear that the moving of the vote of confidence was orchestrated to avoid appearance in the court.

But does the court order stop the ED from arresting Kejriwal in the liquor scam case. The threat of the same has become graver ever since in another money-laundering case, then chief minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren was arrested. To the credit of Soren, he managed a smooth transfer of power to a close aide and also ensured survival of the JMM-Congress government. The question is what Arvind Kejriwal would do if a similar situation was to arise.

With his number two Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh cooling heels in the jail in the same case, Kejriwal knows that he cannot escape law for long and can only delay the inevitable. Kejriwal’s problems has increased ever since Sisodia’s counsel seeking bail in the Supreme Court had taken stand in the court that why his client should only be targeted when it was a collective decision of the government.

The arguments forwarded by Sisodia’s counsel has added credence to ED’s perusal of Kejriwal’s role in the scam. The ED’s case has become stronger with Kejriwal repeatedly avoiding its summons and now the Delhi CM also managing to delay his appearance before the court.

In the event of a Jharkhand like situation arising, similar smooth transition is unlikely in Delhi. Since Jharkhand is a state and Delhi Union Territory, in the latter’s case every change in the Cabinet including those of the Ministers has to be approved by the President. It’s not merely for the Lieutenant Governor to take the call but he has to act on the directions of the Centre.

What would be the Centre’s call, its best explained in what US Congressman and Black leader William Clay had once famously said, “This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” one would have to wait and watch how politics unfolds in the coming weeks(s).   

 

(First Published in The Morning Standard)

 

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