In a major blow to the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested Delhi government’s principal secretary to the chief minister, Rajendra Kumar, along with four other persons.
The case of Kumar is not new and it began way back in 2015, when for the first time another bureaucrat in the Delhi government Ashish Joshi acted as a whistleblower and demanded a probe against Kumar for the first time by moving Delhi’s Anti Corruption Branch (ACB). Joshi alleged that Rajendra Kumar had misused his power and position in granting favours to a private company.
The CBI action against Rajendra Kumar is not for the first time, as the investigative agency had raided the Chief Minister’s Office and that of Kumar's in 2015.
Monday's turn of events has led to a blame game, as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has cried ‘foul and conspiracy’ against them, while the BJP has accused Arvind Kejriwal of shielding its corrupt leaders and officials.
Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi intentionally targetting Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal?
The AAP government has cried foul and termed CBI’s action as a "witch-hunt by Modi government".
“Modiji is taking revenge of BJP’s defeat in Delhi by targetting AAP MLAs and Kejriwal’s trusted officials one after another,” alleged Delhi’s deputy CM Manish Sisodia in a hurriedly-called press conference on Monday.
“In the last 23 years, no central government has stooped as low as the Narendra Modi government. It’s a conspiracy to paralyse CM’s office. First, the Centre transferred our 11 officers and now arrested Kumar, reveals their malafide intention. If, Kumar or anyone, who’s wrong, should be punished, but what’s the emergency behind arresting Kumar today all of a sudden? As Kejriwal is gaining popularity in Punjab and Goa and would win the assembly elections there, Modi government wants to destabilise us,” he alleged
AAP spokesperson Ashutosh alleged, “It’s a political vendetta of Modi government. We don’t know why Modi hates people of Delhi so much. He has unleashed Delhi police against our MLAs one after another. For the last six months, the CBI has been asking for evidences, and today all of a sudden, it arrested Kumar.”
Reacting sharply, Delhi BJP president, Satish Upadhyay said, “Rajendra Kumar’s corrupt practices happened during Sheila Dikshit and Kejriwal. Shielding corrupt officials and MLAs, the double standard of Kejriwal has got exposed.”
What does the CBI say
The CBI in a press conference on Monday said that it has arrested five people including Rajendra Kumar on charges of bribing, misusing the office of power (CMO) and favouring and awarding contracts to a private company. The arrested persons will be produced before the court on Tuesday.
Who is Rajendra Kumar?
• Rajendra Kumar, a 1989 batch IAS officer of the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories (AGMUT) cadre, was appointed the principal secretary (PS) to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in February 2015.
• He was the batchmate of Arvind Kejrwal in IIT Kharagpur.
• Also served as secretary to Kejriwal during the previous 49-day AAP government.
• Kumar’s longest stint has been with the Delhi government and he has served both under former CM Sheila Dikshit and under Arvind Kejriwal.
• He also held the position of secretary in urban development department and handled various departments, including power and transport.
Who is Ashish Joshi?
• Ashish Joshi, a 1992-batch Indian Post and Telecommunication Accounts and Finance Service (IP&TAFS) officer, was Member-secretary (Finance) of Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and member-secretary of Delhi Dialogue Commission, from where he was removed in May 2015. Allegations against Joshi were that he chewed tobacco and smoked cigarettes inside his chamber and violated ‘conduct rules’.
• Joshi as a whistleblower moved the Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) against Kumar on June 2015. He had written to the ACB Chief MK Meena against Kumar, accusing him of corrupt practices. He had demanded the ACB to probe the role of Kumar when he was with the departments of Education, IT and Health of the Delhi government.
• Joshi had alleged that Kumar, as director of Education (from May 2002 to February 2005) and later secretary (IT), secretary (Health) and commissioner (VAT), had allegedly set up various companies to award work orders of departments without tenders which caused “financial loss” to Delhi government.
• Joshi had further alleged that Rajendra Kumar created a computer lab called ‘Caltoonz’ at Timarpur and EDUDEL MIS. Formed Endeavours Systems Pvt Ltd and used to supply stationery to Education Department.
• Joshi also alleged that Kumar as secretary (IT) in 2007 got Endeavours Systems Pvt Ltd empanelled with the PSU ICSIL and ensured IT-related work and SAP license worth more than Rs 50 crore be given to the said private company through ICSIL.
• Joshi also alleged that the Delhi government, despite knowing about the corrupt practices of Kumar, in April 2016, gave him the additional charge of chairman of Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) days after some alleged irregularities surfaced in the board.
The CBI has clarified that Rajendra Kumar, as a government employee, favoured a private company through five contracts worth Rs 9.5 crore between 2007-2014.
Details of the contracts
• 2009: Rajendra Kumar as chairman, Delhi Transco, allegedly facilitated a contract worth Rs 40.5 lakh for the development of a comprehensive Management Information System to Endeavour System Pvt Ltd, without inviting tenders. The contract was given through a public sector undertaking ICSIL.
• 2010: Rajendra Kumar, as secretary, Health and Family Welfare, allegedly facilitated the award of a manpower project in the department, worth Rs 2.43 crore, to the same private company through ICSIL without inviting tenders.
• 2012 (May): As commissioner, Trade and Taxes, Kumar allegedly facilitated the award of a project for the development of a software application worth Rs 3.66 crore to the same company again through ICSIL. Though trade and taxes contracts were awarded through tenders, conditions were tailor-made to suit the company.
• 2013 (July): As secretary (IT), Kumar facilitated the award of a facility management system project in the Trade and Tax department (VAT) worth Rs 45.50 lakh without inviting any tender.
• 2014 (February): As secretary to Kejriwal, he facilitated the award of a project regarding the enterprise resources planning of the Delhi Jal Board worth Rs 2.46 crore to ICSIL.
• 2014 (May): ICSIL reportedly handed over the project to a private company. Though this project was given in through a tender, the eligibility criteria were allegedly designed to favour the said private company.
• 2015 (16 December): Charges were levelled against Rajendra Kumar under the Excise Rules for possessing more than the legal limit of liquor in his house.
Prior to this on 15 December, 2015, the CBI had conducted a series of 14 raids, including in the office of Arvind Kejriwal and the latter had termed it as “vendetta politics”.
The CBI had then said the raid wasn't conducted in Arvind Kejriwal's office but it was in the office of Principal Secretary to CM, Rajendra Kumar.
That day, reacting strongly against the CBI raid, Manish Sisodia had remarked, “Bring evidence of corruption against me or CM Kejriwal or even a department peon, action will be taken. It was the AAP government that sacked its minister on charges of corruption. No other government does so. We've a clear policy that if someone found guilty of corruption, send that person to jail. But, we warn don't try to get into CM's office or any other department by using false charges and mala fide intentions. Both the Congress and the BJP are on the same page as far as using the CBI to create hurdles against their opponents…At the end of the day long raid, when the CBI failed to get any evidence, the Modi-government said that 'we should mind our language' (use proper language). I ask them to mind their ways and actions. Agar woh apne karmo ke liye maafi maangenge, to hum apne shabdon ke liye maafi maang lenge (If they apologise for their actions, we'll apologise for the words we used).”