AAP cries foul after CBI questions Manish Sisodia, says motive is to harass Arvind Kejriwal govt

“If Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre can do it, why Arvind Kejriwal and his democratically-elected government in Delhi can’t?”
This is the question Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government is asking, in relation to communicating with citizens on social media. AAP is obliquely referring to Modi's active presence on social media — the prime minister has 30 million followers on Twitter.

Delhi government’s only concern is why should they be gagged from communicating with public on social media?

It all began with a tweet by Arunoday Prakash, the media advisor of Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Friday morning, after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) visited Sisodia’s residence to question him on ‘Talk to AK’ programme.

“While Kejriwal is busy inspecting hospitals, the Centre busy victimising. The CBI raids at deputy chief minister's residence," Prakash tweeted.

The CBI's action has once again brought the spotlight on the apparent functioning of the country’s premier investigative agency. “Talk to AK campaign was an interactive session of the Delhi chief minister through which people could reach out to him through Google, YouTube and social media sites like Facebook. We maintained transparency and followed rules applicable in every stage of the process. The CBI has questioned the deputy chief minister on the basis of a complaint made by the former lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung, which is irrelevant,” AAP MLA and secretary Delhi AAP, Saurabh Bharadwaj told Firstpost.

“If Modi can do it, why the democratically-elected Delhi government can’t,” he questioned.

What was L-G’s complaint?

File image of Manish Sisodia. PTI

File image of Manish Sisodia. PTI

According to an official working in Sisodia's office, Jung had lodged a complaint with CBI whether the Delhi government had tried to financially benefit a PR agency hired by the latter to air the interactive programme on social media.  “Jung asked the CBI to find out whether the Delhi government had tried to provide financial benefits to the particular PR agency by hiring it for the programme. But the real motive behind it was to harass Delhi government,” the official alleged.

What’s ‘Talk to AK’ programme all about?

‘Talk to AK’ (Talk to Arvind Kejriwal) campaign was an interactive session with Kejriwal through which people could reach out to him through social media. The aim was to invite queries from people on various issues and Kejriwal would reply to them.

According to an official note related to the programme – ‘Talk to AK’ — accessed by Firstpost, the Delhi government hired Dilip Cherian’s PR agency – Perfect Relations for the job.

- 8 July, 2016 was the date fixed for the programme and Delhi government asked its publicity wing — Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) — to go ahead with the preparation.
- Due to lack of prior experience, the DIP expressed its inability to air the programme on social media.
- Delhi government asked Perfect Relations, which has already been working with the government, to take up the initiative with a set of pre-conditions that no advance payment, no discount, no commission, etc. would be made to the agency for the job. Actual amount paid to Google, Facebook, etc. will only be made to the agency after the programme.
- No additional charges would be made to the agency, except the one as per the prior agreement with the DIP.
- On 6 July, Perfect Relations gave its proposal to Delhi government.
- On 8 July, DIP forwarded the file to the Department of Finance, and cabinet approval was given on 1 September.

What CBI has to say?

According to CBI officials, the preliminary enquiry was filed against the AAP leader and other Delhi government officials as there were allegations of impropriety and violation of rules and regulations in the award of work related to the media campaign.

The CBI has denied there was any raid or search at Sisodia's residence in New Delhi.

“A team of officers went to Sisodia's residence to record his statement in a preliminary enquiry registered in the 'Talk to AK' programme scam,” a CBI official told IANS.

What the Delhi government has to say?

“As the DIP had never handled Facebook Live kind of projects earlier, so the responsibility was given to Perfect Relations through DIP. Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have no competitors and function as free determinants, so they don’t invite tenders. These are pay-and-avail service type of companies. Our mode of payment is not acceptable to them. So, we had to go by their rules, but, we made it clear with our agency that payment will only be made after the programme. There were no irregularities in the entire process,” said Bharadwaj.

“We had asked suggestions from the Centre on how to do these kind of programmes on social media, but we failed to get any reply,” he added.

AAP government calls CBI’s questioning vindictive

Crying foul, the AAP government has described CBI questioning Sisodia as “CBI raid on Dy CM Manish Sisodia’s home! Another vendetta masterstroke by Modi government!”

“Earlier Kejriwal's office was raided. The Centre is using caged parrot to victimise voices of dissent. It is clearly a vindictive move,” alleged Prakash.

In December 2015, the CBI raided Kejriwal's office and sealed it following allegations against Principal Secretary Rajinder Kumar.


Published Date: Jun 16, 2017 09:53 pm | Updated Date: Jun 16, 2017 11:01 pm

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