Mehbooba says INC joining 'BJP propaganda' as CBI raid on Sisodia exposes weakness in oppn unity

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Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal | Photos: ANI, Mathrubhumi

New Delhi: The CBI raid at Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's residence in the excise policy case on Friday has exposed faultlines amid talk of opposition unity for the 2024 electoral battle with Congress supporting the action by the probe agency while several other opposition parties including Trinamool Congress and CPI-M slammed the government's action against the AAP leader.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday slammed the Congress over its stance, saying that the party has been unable to rise above its interests as AAP is its formidable opponent.

Mehbooba Mufti referred to the protest by Delhi Congress seeking Sisodia's resignation and accused the party of joining "BJP's propaganda" even as it is a "victim of ED onslaught".

"Sad that Congress is unable to rise above party interests because AAP is a formidable opponent. Having been a victim themselves of the ED onslaught yet they are joining BJP's propaganda. At a time when agencies are being weaponised, the Opposition should've rallied together," Mehbooba Mufti said in a tweet.

Delhi Congress held a protest on Saturday demanding the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia over alleged corruption in the Delhi Excise Policy following the CBI raid at his residence.

The protesters raised slogans against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Sisodia.

For Congress, Aam Aadmi Party is a formidable opponent which had ousted it from power in Delhi and defeated it in Punjab in polls earlier this year. The efforts by AAP to increase its influence across states also pose a challenge for Congress. The AAP's efforts to gain space in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which will go to the polls later this year, pose immediate challenges for Congress.

The efforts of AAP leaders to pitch the 2024 battle as that between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kejriwal is also seemingly problematic for Congress, which is the main opposition party against the BJP.

Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit and Alka Lamba were among those who on Friday slammed the AAP government following CBI raids at Sisodia's residence.

Dikshit said there should have been several CBI raids over the actions of the AAP government.

"It is not surprising. We have been hearing about what has been happening in the Delhi Government for the last 7-8 years. It is surprising that the CBI raids didn't happen earlier. Be it liquor case, construction of rooms in schools, teachers recruitment, the civil defence recruitment case or the case of the contracts wherever you see, there should've been not one but 10 CBI raids," Dikshit told ANI.

Congress leader Alka Lamba also attacked the AAP government.

"If their policy was right, why they had they followed the prior one by Sheila Dixit when she was CM of Delhi? AAP always criticises her tenure and now they are following her policies," she said in a tweet.

Congress leader Pawan Khera said the flip side "to relentless misuse of agencies against political rivals" is that even legitimate, rightful actions of agencies come under a cloud of suspicion.

"In the process, the corrupt get away hiding behind the 'misuse' argument and the honest end up paying the price," he said in a tweet.

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday conducted searches at the residence of Sisodia and several other locations in different states in connection with the alleged scam in the recently withdrawn excise policy of the Aam Aadmi Party government.

CBI said searches were held at 31 locations including in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru and led to the recovery of incriminating documents, articles and digital records.

Opposition parties were not able to put a united front during the presidential and vice-presidential polls. Trinamool Congress had abstained from voting during the vice-presidential election.

CPI-M's Brinda Karat said on Friday that the BJP-led government is targeting the Opposition political parties with the help of central agencies.

"I strongly condemn the CBI raid. Manish Sisodia is the Deputy CM of Delhi that's why he is being targeted. Had he been in RSS or BJP, and bowed before them, he would have got clean chit in everything. Everything is just politics. This is happening throughout the country," Karat told ANI.

She alleged that the BJP-led central government wants to expand its power across the country by targeting opposition parties with raids.

"The raids have got nothing to do with corruption. They just want to expand their power by targeting the opposition," she said.

Trinamool Congress leader Jay Prakash Majumdar slammed the BJP-led Central government over CBI raid at Sisodia's residence saying "it is another attempt to divert the democratic process in the country".

He accused the government of misusing central agencies.

"It is another attempt to divert the democratic process in the country. BJP is afraid after the 'Bihar syndrome' that it may not be able to cross 220 seats in the 2024 elections. That's why BJP is trying to use central agencies to gain power, just as they did in Maharashtra. BJP-RSS do not want a multi-party system in the country," Majumdar said.

Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction leader Anand Dubey said the CBI raid is nothing new as the BJP has pledged to conduct raids on Opposition parties. "They started with Maharashtra, then they went to other states."

"BJP didn't like the way the AAP was expanding in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and campaigning for the upcoming election. The BJP has decided to misuse the central agencies. In Maharashtra, many MLAs have ED cases against them. But they are with BJP and there is no raid or arrest against them. Therefore, it's like either you work with BJP or get ED and CBI raids against you."

Manoj Jha, MP, said Opposition leaders have to get united to give a message to the Centre to "fight the political battles politically".

"Institutions like CBI and ED have lost their character. Their direction is decided, we all know where it comes from. When raids are conducted on Opposition leaders, AAP chooses eerie silence. We are speaking for you, aren't we? Nobody will benefit from this isolated thinking or from such one-sided thinking."

Jha further said that the Opposition leaders have to get united to give a message to the Centre to "fight the political battles politically".

"We (Opposition parties) all have to give a message to fight political battles politically, which the Central government does not want to do. Whenever there are such actions against any Opposition leader, we have to speak for each other. We have seen a pattern."

"When a leader is raided and joins the BJP, there is no more buzz about the cases. This is a blot on the rule of law. The predictability of the central agencies is a matter of concern," Jha said.

Sisodia is among 15 persons booked in the FIR filed by CBI. Excise officials, liquor company executives, dealers along with unknown public servants and private persons have also been booked in the case.

Sisodia said on Saturday that he might be arrested soon stating that the liquor issue or the excise policy was just an excuse to target him since he was a minister under Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Sisodia alleged that the raid against him was all political and had nothing to do with the alleged violations in Delhi's excise policy.

"Maybe within the next 3-4 days, CBI-ED will arrest me... we won't be scared, you won't be able to break us... Elections of 2024 will be AAP vs BJP," said Sisodia while addressing a press conference in the national capital.


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