Stung by a letter from opposition parties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging the misuse of probe agencies against rivals, the BJP has decided to strike back through a series of press conferences in nine states.
The press meets have been organised in the home states of the opposition leaders who wrote to PM Modi on Sunday, like Delhi, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Bengal and Kerala.
The BJP's strategy is to project the letter signatories as corrupt leaders who are afraid of being investigated, say sources.
Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari held the first of these interactions in the capital. For the other states, the BJP has fielded leaders like Suvendu Adhikari (Bengal), Sanjay Jaiswal (Bihar), Brijesh Pathak (Uttar Pradesh), and Sanjay Bandi (Telangana).
The opposition leaders wrote to PM Modi days after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia's arrest in a case involving a new liquor policy for Delhi. The policy was launched in November 2021 but withdrawn nine months later after Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena asked the CBI to investigate what he called corruption in the distribution of liquor licenses.
The Congress was missing in the letter signed by Chief Ministers K Chandrashekar Rao, Mamata Banerjee, Bhagwant Mann and Arvind Kejriwal among others. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote a solo letter.
"We hope you would agree that India is still a democratic country. The blatant misuse of central agencies against the members of the opposition appears to suggest that we have transitioned from being a democracy to an autocracy," the letter said.
"Out of the total number of key politicians booked, arrested, raided or interrogated by the investigation agencies under your administration since 2014, the maximum belongs to the opposition. Interestingly, investigation agencies go slow on cases against opposition politicians who join the BJP," it alleged.
Alleging that Mr Sisodia was arrested "without a shred of evidence" against him, the letter said: "Since 2014, there has been a marked rise in the number of raids conducted, cases lodged against and arrest of the opposition leaders. Be it Lalu Prasad Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), Azam Khan (Samajwadi Party), Nawab Malik, Anil Deshmukh (NCP), Abhishek Banerjee (TMC), central agencies have often sparked suspicion that they were working as extended wings of the ruling dispensation at the centre."
The BJP has denied accusations of politically motivated arrests ahead of the 2024 national election.