New Delhi: In an attempt to echo the Opposition’s voice in unison, nine leaders of eight political parties on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the arrest of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the excise policy case, and alleged that the “misuse” of the central agencies suggests that the country has “transitioned from being a democracy to an autocracy”.
The leaders alleged that the timings of the lodging of cases or arrests of the Opposition leaders “coincided with elections” which makes it clear that the action taken was “politically motivated”. Among the Opposition leaders who were the signatories of the letter included BRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao, JKNC chief Farooq Abdullah, AITC chief Mamata Banerjee, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
However, there were no representations from Congress, JDS, JD (U), and CPI (M) in the 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 leaders wrote.
Calling the action against Sisodia, who was arrested on February 26 by the CBI, a “long witch-hunt”, the letter alleged that the allegations levelled in connection with the excise policy are a “smack of a political conspiracy”.
They claimed that Sisodia’s arrest has “enraged” people across the country and alleged that his arrest will “confirm what the world was only suspecting” that India’s democratic values were “threatened” under the BJP rule.
“The allegations against Sisodia are outrightly baseless and smack of a political conspiracy. His arrest has enraged people across the country. Manish Sisodia is recognised globally for transforming Delhi’s school education. His arrest will be cited worldwide as an example of a political witch-hunt and further confirm what the world was only suspecting – that India’s democratic values stand threatened under an authoritarian BJP regime,” the leaders wrote.
The letter further accused the government of softening the investigation against the Opposition leaders who are being probed on different cases after they joined the BJP.
Citing the example of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who was formerly a Congress leader who joined the BJP in 2015, the letter said that he was being probed by the central agencies over the Saradha chit fund scam, however, the case didn’t progress after he joined the BJP.
“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,” the letter said.
“Former TMC leaders Shri Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy were under the ED and CBI scanner in the Narada sting operation case but the cases didn’t progress after they joined the BJP ahead of the assembly polls in the state. There are many such examples. including that of Narayan Rane of Maharashtra,” it added.
Pointing out the arrests of Opposition leaders including Lalu Prasad Yadav, Azam Khan, and others, the leaders wrote that the central agencies were working as “extended wings” of the BJP.
“Since 2014, there has been an increase in the number of raids conducted, cases registered, and arrests of 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. In many such cases, the timings of the cases lodged or arrests made have coincided with elections making it abundantly clear that they were politically motivated,” the opposition leaders wrote.
“The manner in which prominent members of the opposition have been targeted lends credence to the allegation that your government is using investigating agencies to target or eliminate the opposition,” they alleged.
Remaking on the role of the Governors, the Opposition leaders alleged that their offices in the country are “frequently hindering the governance of the state”.
“The offices of the Governors across the country are acting in violation of the constitutional provisions and frequently hindering the governance of the state. They are wilfully undermining democratically elected state governments and choosing instead to obstruct governance as per their whims and fancies,” the letter said.
Naming the Governors of various states and Union Territory, the leaders alleged that they have become the face of the “widening rift between the Centre and states run by the non-BJP governments”.
“Be it the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab. Telangana or the Lt Governor of Delhi — the Governors have become the face of the widening rift between the Centre and states run by the non-BJP governments and threaten the spirit of cooperative federalism, which the states continue to nurture in spite of a lack of expression by the Centre. As a result, the people of our country have now begun to question the role of the Governors in Indian democracy,” it said.