Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Saturday claimed that he is likely to be arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Enforcement Directorate in the next three to four days.

Sisodia’s remarks came a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation carried out raids at his official residence in central Delhi and 20 other locations in seven states and Union territories in a case related to alleged irregularities in the new excise policy.

“We won’t be scared, you won’t be able to break us,” said Sisodia, who is in-charge of the excise department, at a press conference. “The BJP-ruled central government is not worried about the [alleged] excise fraud, it is worried about Arvind Kejriwal because they see him as the prime challenger to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi in the upcoming general elections.”

The 2024 Lok Sabha polls, he declared, will be a contest between the Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP. “Till now, people used to ask if not Modi who?” he said. “Now it has become clear that the answer to this is Kejriwal.”

On Friday, Sisodia said that the Central Bureau of Investigation took away his phone and laptop after searching his premises for 14 hours in the excise policy case. Officials of the investigating agency had arrived at Sisodia’s house at 8.30 am and left at around 10.30 pm.

The excise policy 2021-’22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report, came into effect in November. Under it, licences of 849 liquor shops were issued to private firms through open bidding. Earlier, four government corporations ran 475 liquor stores and the remaining 389 were private shops.

However, it was withdrawn by the AAP government on July 30 after Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended an inquiry into the new policy’s formulation and implementation by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

On Saturday, the deputy chief minister denied any wrongdoing and said the excise policy was implemented with complete transparency. “This was the best excise policy to have ever been formulated in the country,” he claimed.

According to a report by the chief secretary, Sisodia gave undue benefits to licence holders by revising the rates of foreign liquor and by removing an import pass fee of Rs 50 per case of beer. This led to foreign liquor and beer becoming cheaper and caused a loss to the state exchequer, the report alleged.

CBI officials during a raid at the residence of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in New Delhi on August 19. Credit: PTI

But Sisodia claimed that officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation were instructed by the “high command” to carry out searches at his home.

“All the CBI officers behaved well with me and my family,” he said. “No one wants CBI in their home but they had directions from above so they raided my house.”

In recent months, Opposition parties have alleged that the Narendra Modi-led government has been misusing central agencies such as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to target its political opponents.

At his press conference, Sisodia retreated the AAP’s statement that the BJP was unhappy over an article published by The New York Times on the Delhi government’s efforts to improve the education system in the national capital.

Kejriwal ‘kingpin’ of the scam, alleges BJP

Hours later, Union minister Anurag Thakur described Kejriwal as the “kingpin” of the “liquor scam” in the capital.

“If there was no scam, why was the liquor policy withdrawn?” the BJP leader asked. “No matter how hard a corrupt person tries to prove himself innocent, he will still remain corrupt. This is not the first case of corruption by AAP. There has been huge corruption in the liquor stores in Delhi.”

Sisodia was so scared at the press conference on Saturday that he could not handle questions asked by journalists, Thakur claimed.

FIR in the excise policy case

In its first information report filed alleging irregularities in Delhi’s excise policy on August 17, the Central Bureau of Investigation has named Manish Sisodia among 15 other persons.

Apart from Sisodia, the central agency has named former Excise Commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, former Deputy Excise Commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, Assistant Excise Commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies in its list of accused.

In the FIR, the central agency has alleged that the Delhi deputy chief minister and other accused public servants recommended and took decisions about the excise policy without the approval of competent authority with “an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender”.

The agency also alleged that four accused persons – Vijay Nair, Manoj Rai, Amandeep Dhal and Sameer Mahendru – were “actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of excise policy” of the Delhi government.

Nair is a former chief executive officer of entertainment company Only Much Louder, Rai is a former employee of French liquor company Pernod Ricard, Dhal is the owner of Brindco spirits and Mahendru is the owner of Indospirits.