Explained: Delhi tanker scam that's put both Sheila and Kejriwal in the dock
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal could soon be questioned by the police in connection with an alleged water tanker scam, as could be his predecessor Sheila Dikshit. The Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi Police registered an FIR in the case on 20 June.
The alleged scam, said to be worth at least Rs 400 crore, relates to the hiring of 385 stainless steel water tankers by the Delhi Jal Board in 2012.
According to ACB chief MK Meena, the FIR was registered on the basis of two complaints - one from Delhi's Water Minister Kapil Mishra, the other from Vijender Gupta, the Leader of Opposition. Both Kejriwal and Dikshit "will be quizzed in coming days if it's important for the case," Meena said.
Also read: Water tanker scam: File FIR against Sheila Dikshit, AAP's Kapil Mishra asks PM Modi, LG
Kejriwal appears to have taken the case on the chin, welcoming the FIR with a dig at Narendra Modi. He said he was glad the prime minister had accepted that his fight was directly with the AAP leader. The case is likely to worsen the already acrimonious relationship between the AAP government and the Centre. While we wait for the ACB to make its move, here is a summary of the case.
What's the alleged scam?
It's alleged that the Delhi Jal Board, under Dikshit's chairmanship, arbitrarily awarded contracts for water tankers, and at rates higher than prescribed. This is said to have taken place in 2012. When AAP came to power in 2015, it set up a committee to probe the alleged scam. After the committee submitted its report last August, Kapil Mishra, the current DJB chairman, recommended a probe against Dikshit.
What is the BJP's complaint about?
Vijender Gupta has claimed that the AAP government has not taken any action on its own report even months after it was submitted and has, thus, perpetuated the scam. Lamenting that the Kejriwal regime had not cancelled the contracts, he has urged Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to have an FIR registered against the state government.
Why hasn't AAP acted on the report?
Kejriwal and Mishra say the central government tied their hands by taking away control of the ACB a year ago. The reference is to an order issued by Jung in July 2015 stating that the Delhi government had no jurisdiction over the ACB. AAP leaders maintain that they will send Dikshit to jail within 24 hours if the Centre gives back control of the ACB.
Why has the AAP regime not cancelled the contracts?
According to Mishra, doing this would have adversely affected Delhi's water supply.
What happens now?
The ACB has registered an FIR and Meena has publicly stated that Kejriwal and Dikshit could be questioned. AAP's defence is partly correct in that its government really doesn't have control over the ACB. But by not cancelling the controversial contracts for the water tankers, the Kejriwal regime has put itself in a difficult position. It remains to be seen if this would be damaging to the party, which has long marketed itself as an anti-corruption crusader.