The arrest of Delhi’s health minister Satyendar Jain by the Enforcement Directorate should not have raised any eyebrows. It is the duty of the law-enforcement agencies to arrest persons who are involved in questionable deeds, file chargesheet against them and see to it that they are punished. Unfortunately, things are no longer straight. There have been umpteen instances in which Central and state agencies have been used by their political masters to settle scores with their political rivals. That is precisely why many see the arrest of Jain as politically motivated. It is no exaggeration to say that the ruling BJP faces a major challenge in the Capital. A by-election to the Delhi Assembly and elections to the three municipal corporations are due. It is the fear of the Aam Aadmi Party sweeping the municipal polls that has forced the BJP to think of ways to postpone the polls under one pretext or another.
A defeat in the by-election in Rajinder Nagar will be a setback for the BJP. It is in the party’s interest to show the AAP in a poor light. The greatest strength of the AAP is its supposedly clean image and the claim that its leaders have no baggage to carry. It was on the strength of this clean image and the track record of the Kejriwal government that the party won the Punjab elections. There is a large section of the people who are wary of both the BJP and the Congress and they see a ray of hope in the AAP. If such people gravitate towards the AAP in the rest of the country, it can emerge as a formidable national force. Elections are due in Himachal Pradesh where the BJP’s fortunes are on the downslide. The state has a tradition of choosing the BJP or the Congress every five years. It is the Congress’ due in the next elections.
The spectacular victory in Punjab with which Himachal Pradesh shares its boundaries has given hope to the AAP that it can wrest the state from the BJP. Many may call the AAP, the B team of the Sangh Parivar but the Sangh Parivar is not prepared to accept the AAP replacing the BJP as the preeminent political organisation in the North. As Satyendar Jain is the AAP’s in-charge for Himachal Pradesh, it is in the BJP’s interest to put him in the dock. It will rob the AAP of its clean image. In Punjab, the party scored a self-goal when the chief minister got a minister’s telephone tapped, found evidence that he was demanding bribes at the rate of 1 per cent of the project amount and sacked him. The minister is in jail now. The question many asked was how such a person was given a ticket to contest the election. That the sacked minister was close to the RSS is seen by many as a reason for the chief minister’s suo motu action.
The BJP and the Congress will naturally pick holes in the AAP argument that the action against Jain was vindictive. There was a time when ministers were not arrested. When arrests became imminent, the ministers concerned would resign so that the police had no embarrassment in arresting someone whose security was their concern. The demand for divesting Jain of his ministership while he is in jail is quite fair. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should take the initiative to get his resignation. Alternatively, he should sack him from the council of ministers. Such a step does not amount to acceptance that Jain was guilty of money-laundering that he allegedly did before he became a minister. Under the law, a person is considered innocent till he is found guilty. It is Jain’s responsibility to prove his innocence in a court of law so that he can return to ministership in a credible manner. Allowing him to retain the tag of minister while languishing in jail does not show the system in a good light.
In all this, it is the credibility of the Central agencies that has been questioned. The chargesheet in the case in which actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was allegedly involved was filed the other day. The agency admitted that the investigating officer had not been fair in his investigation and that is why the boy was arrested and kept in jail for many days. Had the victim been an ordinary person and did not have the clout of his father, he would have languished in jail for a long period. The nation has seen how a senior police officer who investigated cases against many political leaders was given the BJP ticket in Uttar Pradesh. He is today a party MLA. Alas, that is why agencies like the ED are seen as handmaidens of the party in power.