Operation Sheeshmahal: Arvind Kejriwal, the incumbent Chief Minister of Delhi, has once again found himself in the spotlight, and definitely not for the right reasons. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), under directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs, is poised to launch a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) into Kejriwal’s extravagant expenditures on the renovation of his official residence, the Chief Minister’s bungalow.
This move by the CBI comes in response to a cascade of allegations and suspicions regarding irregularities surrounding the lavish renovation project. These concerns were first brought to light during an inquiry conducted by the Chief Secretary of Delhi, sending shockwaves through the political landscape.
As the nation grappled with the profound challenges posed by multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kejriwal’s conspicuous spending on his official residence raises serious questions about the allocation of public resources during a time of crisis.
So, join us as we focus on the details of this inquiry, examining the allegations, the evidence presented, and the implications for Arvind Kejriwal’s political future.
What is this “Operation Sheeshmahal”?
What exactly does ‘Operation Sheeshmahal’ entail, and why has it stirred such a significant uproar? In April 2023, Times Now’s investigative report, led by ‘Times Now: Navbharat,’ sent shockwaves through the political landscape as it unveiled the extravagant expenses incurred by Arvind Kejriwal in the renovation of his official residence. This report, titled ‘Operation Sheeshmahal,’ delved deep into the opulent makeover of Kejriwal’s abode, shedding light on a matter that involved not just taxpayers’ money but also the lives and well-being of the ordinary citizens of Delhi.
As per the findings of Times Now, it became evident that the funds used for this renovation were more an appropriation of taxpayer money rather than a genuine ‘construction’ project for the Chief Minister’s residence. The figures painted a staggering picture, with approximately Rs 44.78 crores spent on the overhaul.
What raised eyebrows even further was the allocation of over Rs 1 crore solely for the procurement of curtains. Kejriwal’s taste apparently leaned towards curtains that came with a price tag of Rs 7,94,000 per piece, and he ordered a total of 23 such curtain pieces. The extravagance didn’t stop there; he also splurged Rs 3.30 crores on ‘Deor Pearl Marble,’ renowned for its superior quality, and the amount was earmarked for both acquiring and polishing the marble. Additionally, a sum of Rs 21,60,000 was expended on the chemical adhesive used for affixing the marble.
These figures, mind-boggling as they are, become even more egregious when one considers what the same funds could have achieved in the service of Delhi’s citizens. At a time when the city was grappling with the devastating impacts of the pandemic, these Rs 45 crores could have been channeled towards building 224 Mohalla clinics, providing essential healthcare access. Alternatively, they could have been employed to procure 12,459 oxygen concentrators, 2,25,000 PPE kits, and 2,710 ventilators to bolster the city’s healthcare infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis.
AT the time Kejriwal had pocketed these Rs 45 crores, they could have been utilized to build 224 Mohalla clinics. Considering how badly Delhi struggled during the pandemic, the amount could have been utilized to purchase 12,459 oxygen concentrators. As many as 2,25,000 PPE kits and 2,710 ventilators could have been purchased during the Covid. Moreover, given how image conscious this guy is, this would have given a significant edge over his opponents, and the moral high ground he desperately yearns for. But, priorities…
No proceedings until now against Kejriwal!
The wheels of accountability have been set in motion as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India embarked on a “special audit” to scrutinize the alleged “administrative and financial” irregularities during the renovation of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s official residence, often referred to as the ‘Sheesh Mahal’ in media circles. This audit, initiated on 27 June, signals a significant turning point in Kejriwal’s tenure, as it marks the first official inquiry against him since assuming power.
The catalyst for the CAG’s special audit was a recommendation put forth by the Ministry of Home Affairs, triggered by a letter received on 24 May 2023 from the Lieutenant Governor’s Secretariat. This missive raised a red flag, highlighting glaring financial irregularities that had prima facie marred the reconstruction of Kejriwal’s official residence. The Lieutenant Governor (LG), in the letter, explicitly pointed out that these violations and what could only be described as “extravagant expenditure” transpired at the behest of “Hon’ble CM Madam,” a veiled reference to Kejriwal’s wife. This profligacy occurred during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, adding a layer of gravity to the allegations.
Kejriwal’s official residence, located at 6, Flagstaff Road in Civil Lines, became the epicenter of scrutiny as reports suggested that a staggering Rs 45 crores were expended on its renovation. This astronomical figure raised eyebrows and further fueled the demand for a thorough investigation.
The initiation of this official inquiry is a watershed moment in Kejriwal’s political career. Prior to this, Delhi witnessed a similar investigative saga when, in early 2023, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also held the finance portfolio, was taken into custody by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following an 8-hour-long inquiry into the liquor scam case. Sisodia subsequently approached the Supreme Court of India to challenge his arrest, but his plea was declined, leading to his resignation from all ministerial posts. This incident also prompted his cabinet colleague, Satyendra Jain, who had been in custody for several months, to resign.
Interestingly, Kejriwal himself has faced scrutiny on multiple fronts. His government came under fire for alleged gross negligence during the second wave of COVID-19. He vociferously accused the central government of failing to deliver oxygen cylinders to Delhi hospitals, only for evidence to emerge of his own government’s involvement in mass hoarding of the same vital medical resource.
As the CBI delves into the details of this high-profile case, the political landscape in Delhi remains tense. If substantial evidence emerges from the investigation, Arvind Kejriwal may find himself joining his comrades in Tihar Jail next! The outcome of this inquiry carries far-reaching implications for both Kejriwal’s political future and the principles of accountability in Indian governance.
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