Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal yesterday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of waging a political vendetta, branding the premier a “psychopath” after federal investigators raided his city administration’s headquarters.
The firebrand chief minister, who founded and leads the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi party, is a bitter opponent of Modi and they have clashed repeatedly in recent months.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirmed officers had raided the Delhi Secretariat and 13 other locations in connection with a corruption case involving Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar.
Kumar, an Indian Administrative Services officer, in a previous role, “abused his official position” by awarding government contracts to a favoured private firm over seven years, along with six others, CBI spokeswoman Devpreet Singh told reporters.
Another official said on condition of anonymity that Rs240,000 in cash and property deeds had been recovered from Kumar’s home.
News of the raid was broken by Kejriwal himself, who posted on Twitter that “CBI raids my office” and then accused Modi of being “a coward and a psychopath” who could not “handle me politically”.
Although his initial comments sparked an uproar, Kejriwal was unrepentant when he later addressed reporters.
“I have a message for Mr Modi: ‘You can’t scare me. You have no idea what I’m made of. I won’t be afraid even until my last breath’,” he said.
“My words may have been harsh but it is you who have committed the real misdeeds.
“Why don’t you apologise to the country for your misdeeds first and then I’ll apologise for my words,” Kejriwal added, in an apparent reference to Modi’s refusal to apologise over deadly communal riots in Gujarat when he was chief minister in 2002.
The raid triggered chaos in parliament where Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said repeatedly that it “has nothing to do with Mr Arvind Kejriwal” and ridiculed the suggestion it was politically motivated.
“The search is in relation to a case for an alleged offence committed in his (Kumar’s) capacity before he joined the office of Mr Kejriwal,” Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha, upper house of parliament, his voice drowned out by opponents.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology from 47-year-old Kejriwal for his “unwarranted and shameful” description of the premier, while the CBI termed his claims “false propaganda”.
Kejriwal says Modi has been attempting to sabotage his government to stem his popularity and destroy his chances of breaking the dominance of India’s two national parties.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters the CBI is an independent organisation and does not act under the orders of the government.
“It has become a fashion of the Delhi chief minister to quarrel with the central government and take the name of the prime minister for each and everything,” Naidu said.
The CBI is nominally independent but long suspected of being under government influence. It was described by the Supreme Court in 2013 as a “caged parrot” that spoke “in its master’s voice”.
Mohan Guruswamy, head of New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank, said he was not surprised by the raid given the history of tensions between the two men.
“It is a well-known fact Kejriwal is opposed to Modi... Kejriwal has opposed his brand of politics, economic policy and finds him the only political competitor in present political system,” Guruswamy said.
The AAP, India’s youngest political party, swept the Delhi assembly polls in February, winning 67 of the 70 seats. The BJP was left with just three.
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