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Experts Divided Over AAP's Delhi Crisis After Manish Sisodia Arrest

© AFP 2023 SAJJAD HUSSAINDelhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia speaks during a press conference in New Delhi on August 20, 2022, after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had raided his home in relation to alleged irregularities with the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia speaks during a press conference in New Delhi on August 20, 2022, after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had raided his home in relation to alleged irregularities with the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 08.03.2023
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contested its first polls for the Delhi State Assembly in 2013 and surprised everyone by becoming the second-largest party. It recently went on to win the election.
Just months after Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) became India's ninth national political party, it appears to have plunged into a crisis. The crisis has come to the fore after the party’s second-in-command and Delhi deputy state chief Manish Sisodia was arrested in the liquor policy case last month.
Sisodia held 18 portfolios in various departments in the Delhi government prior to his arrest and subsequent resignation. He was also in charge of city government flagship schemes across various sectors, including education, health, finance, urban development, industries, and power.
It has been a week since Sisodia’s arrest, and his portfolios have been distributed between Kailash Gahlot and Raj Kumar Anand, who are already ministers in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government.

Challenges for AAP

Sisodia is not the first minister in the Kejriwal government to be in legal trouble. Satyendar Jain, who was health minister in Kejriwal’s cabinet, has been in prison for the past ten months.
Sisodia and Jain have garnered praise from Kejriwal and other AAP members for transforming the education and health infrastructure of the capital city. Both politicians have been credited with raising the party’s popularity and continued electoral success.
However, when Jain was arrested in May last year under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection to a case dating back to August 2017, Sisodia was given the additional portfolio of health ministry.
But now, with both of them in detention, AAP head and Delhi state chief Arvind Kejriwal is left with no heavyweight deputy beside him to implement his agenda in the capital.
Sisodia’s arrest and resignation emerged as a major challenge for the Delhi-ruling AAP as the government is all set to present its budget. Sisodia has been preparing the Delhi Budget 2023-24 and he had even asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to postpone the questioning on February 17, citing preparations of the budget. Following his request, the agency issued a fresh summons for February 26 and then arrested him.
Gahlot was immediately tasked with finalizing the budget and presenting it after the Delhi state chief accepted Sisodia's resignation.
Apart from the budget, Sisodia's arrest also poses a challenge to the AAP's plan to contest elections in other states scheduled to be held later this year, along with the 2024 parliamentary polls.

Sisodia's Arrest Will Have Little Effect on AAP

“Sisodia’s arrest will not have much implication on the AAP, rather they will use it against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming state assembly elections as well as 2024 parliamentary polls,” political expert Sanjeev Kaushik told Sputnik.
According to Kaushik, the AAP will try to use Sisodia's arrest to spin the narrative that the federally-governing BJP is trying to hamper the development work taken up by the AAP government in Delhi through federal probe agency CBI and other central agencies.
He, however, said that AAP government has made all the arrangements so that the work in the capital doesn’t stop, and that is why Kejriwal immediately distributed Sisodia's portfolios among other ministers. “I believe the party will be working on inducting new ministers in the cabinet,” he added.
On the other hand, policy and governance paralysis has existed in Delhi for a long time as Sisodia was holding 18 portfolios while Kejriwal didn’t have a single portfolio, political analyst Desh Ratan Nigam opined.
“Kejriwal holding no portfolio and his ministers holding multiple portfolios explains the way AAP is functioning. Kejriwal wanted to enjoy all powers without accountability. Just giving free electricity and free water to some doesn’t mean that the governance is good. The whole infrastructure in the capital city is in shambles. Had there been no federal government-supported hospitals or schools and private hospitals and private schools, the situation would have been worse,” Nigam stated.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia (C) arrives at the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) office for questioning in connection with the alleged Delhi Excise Policy case in New Delhi on October 17, 2022.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 27.02.2023
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Sharing his thoughts about the future electoral prospects of AAP, he said that now people have started understanding the AAP's model.
“The party won Punjab state assembly elections on an anti-India plank and everybody can see what is happening there. Apart from this, the Punjab government has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio and they don’t have money to fulfill their poll promises,” he added.
“Now, they are asking the federal government to give them money so that they can give the freebies they promised to the people of Punjab during the poll campaigns. So, the AAP might be trying to expand but the fact remains the same, first you have to deliver in the states where you are already in power.”

Sisodia's Arrest in Liquor Policy Case

Sisodia was arrested on February 26 by India’s top anti-corruption watchdog in the liquor policy case. On Monday, a Delhi court sent him to a five-day custody. It was later extended for two more days.
On Tuesday, a special court sent him to judicial custody following which he was sent to Tihar jail.
The probe into the alleged financial irregularities in the now-scrapped liquor policy started in August 2022 after Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) V.K. Saxena ordered an investigation.
The policy was introduced by the AAP government in November 2021 but rolled back last year following the probe orders by the LG.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the opposition party in Delhi, has repeatedly accused the governing AAP, Kejriwal and Sisodia of giving undue benefits to liquor vend licensees. However, the AAP has denied all the allegations and said that the case against Sisodia was fake.