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CBI Guns for the 'Big Fish', Reaches Manish Sisodia's Doorstep

New Delhi: Since 2014, a number of AAP MLAs have gone behind bars. Fresh FIRs or even arrests stopped making big news. But this one is different. The CBI, with a fresh preliminary enquiry, has now moved for the ‘big fish’.

A team has already raided Delhi Deputy Chief Minister’s office, or to use the agency’s jargon, a team has reached his office to ‘seek documents’ pertaining to alleged irregularities in the ‘Talk to AK’ campaign.

The issue dates back to July 2016 when the Delhi government wanted to launch a “massive” social media campaign across Google, Facebook and YouTube. It was centered on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and was to be called ‘Talk to AK’. The plan was to reach out to maximum number of people across the country.

So far, it was all good and legal. But what caught the eye of the Deputy Secretary, Vigilance was the fact that this tender was awarded straight away to one company, Perfect Relations, without going through the process of a tender.

CBI sources say, Perfect Relations, a public relations firm, quoted a price of Rs 1.05 crore plus taxes. The Principal Secretary, Finance issued a red flag where he mentioned that a contract cannot be awarded to a firm where there is only a single tender. But secretary to the Deputy CM overruled this. He instead issued an order to the Department of Information and Publicity for the consultancy to be given to this PR firm.

Around this time, another red flag was raised. This time by the Special Director, Information and Publicity. The objection remained the same: how can you award a contract where there is just a single quotation? It seems it was overruled by none other than Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia himself. Sisodia, as per CBI sources, then went ahead and got it cleared ex-post facto (seeking permission post order) from the Council of Ministers.

And this is what prompted the Deputy Secretary, Vigilance to write to the CBI for a probe. Sources in CBI say the investigation is at a preliminary stage, but the role of the minister, bureaucrats and the private companies are being looked into. The big question, however, is whether a PE would be followed by an FIR before Punjab elections.