The raids on Manish Sisodia, the Deputy chief Minister of Delhi, are centred on the liquor policy that he implemented for 8 months, according to the CBI. Mr Sisodia's Aam Aadmi Party or AAP says that he is being targeted because the centre cannot countenance the vast praise, at home and abroad, for his overhaul of the healthcare and education systems in the capital. Both models are cited frequently and the New York Times ran an article on them on its front page on August 18.
Here's a 8-point guide to the controversy over the liquor policy:
- The CBI states that Mr Sisodia, who is the Excise Minister, introduced a new policy on who would be allowed to sell alcohol without the permission of the Lieutenant Governor, who is the centre's representative in Delhi. The new policy was introduced in November last year and withdrawn eight months later after an investigation was announced.
- The policy saw the Delhi government attempt to increase drastically private players with licenses to sell alcohol. In doing so, it hoped to earn more revenue for the government (through the licensing fee), to defang a powerful liquor mafia and to reduce the reach and appeal of the black market.
- The CBI says that the private parties who were awarded licenses included many ineligible vendors who paid bribes to the Delhi government.
- Mr Sisodia and others in the government say that it was in fact the then Lieutenant Governor who tried to corner large sections of the market for vendors who were of his choice. The Aam Aadmi Party says that the process of awarding licenses was transparent with competitive bids.
- The CBI says that after the licenses were awarded, shop-owners were given a big discount and this cheated the government of revenue. The Delhi government, however, says this discount was offered as a result of the pandemic leading to lower sales, which made it hard for shop-owners to given the high license fee they had paid upfront.
- The CBI also claims that heavy discounts were allowed on imported beer, for example, which meant that the government was losing out on significant taxes.
- Delhi has now reverted to the old policy, where alcohol is available only through government-owned shops.
- The centre says the Delhi government, by proposing services that include home delivery of liquor, is promoting an "alcohol culture." AAP says that the BJP should look at Gujarat, a dry state which it governs, where, recently, 42 people died after buying adulterated liquor sold underground.