A furious Bharatiya Janata Party lashed out at Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday for his 'disgraceful' remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and said it was shameful that the chief minister who came from the 'womb' of anti-graft stir was protecting an officer involved in a 'textbook case of corruption'.
Demanding an apology from the Delhi chief minister for calling Modi a 'coward and psychopath', Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rubbished his claim that the Central Bureau of Investigation raided his office, saying it was not even 'touched' by the agency.
Addressing a press conference, he also questioned Kejriwal over the appointment of an officer facing corruption allegations, asking why had he not done due diligence?
Prasad said the Indian Administrative Services officer Rajendra Kumar, who is principal secretary to Kejriwal, is accused of helping a private firm in getting Delhi government's contracts wherever he was posted and the CBI raided his office and home after getting a court warrant.
"Which law says that the CBI should have informed the chief minister before raiding his officer’s office? There is no such law.... You (Kejriwal) would announce names of corrupt people in your press conferences and it was fair and here, the CBI is acting as per law and you claim it is bad," he said.
Prasad noted that the CBI had raided 14 places and only two of them belonged to Kumar.
The charges date back to the time before the Aam Aadmi Party government came to power, he said.
"A textbook case of corruption is being given political colour for extraneous reasons.... The use of such expressions for our popular prime minister is totally uncalled for, unwarranted, disgraceful and condemnable," he said.
What made Kejriwal's defence of the officer more 'shameful' was that he claimed to be an 'epitome of virtue' having come out of the 'womb of a fight against corruption', he said.
Prasad said when the CBI recently arrested Delhi government officer Sanjay Pratap Singh, the AAP government had 'owned it up' and highlighted its anti-corruption measures but it was now condemning the CBI because the officer concerned was working with the chief minister.
"It is double standards and hypocrisy," the BJP leader alleged.
"The way AAP is defending an officer facing serious charges raises questions. The CBI should be allowed to work in a free and fair manner," he said.
With many political parties attacking the Centre over the raids and terming them a violation of federal structure, he noted that the CBI had raided the principal secretary of then Punjab chief minister when H D Deve Gowda was the prime minister.
"Protecting corruption is not a part of the federal structure," he said.
On the Congress' charge that the government was not acting against BJP chief ministers, he claimed that the allegations against them lacked substance, accusing Congress of resorting to 'lies' and changing issues every hour to disrupt Parliament.
Criticising Kejriwal's remarks against Modi, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that it has become a 'fashion' with the Delhi chief minister to 'quarrel' with the Centre and blame the prime minister for 'everything'.
"Why should we handle anybody? We are in a federal system and everybody has been assigned their responsibilities and they have to act in accordance with the Constitution. The CBI does not function under the government," Naidu said.
Naidu said that 'unlike during the Congress regimes', the National Democratic Alliance government does not 'misuse' the CBI and allows it to function independently.
"Gone are the days of the Congress government when the CBI would be misused. Today, the CBI is an independent organisation and government does not interfere at all. So, how can you criticise the government of India and the prime minister," he said.
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar termed Kejriwal's reaction as 'atrocious' and accused the latter of 'protecting' corrupt and engaging in 'worst kind of politics' by targeting Modi for the same.
"The CBI raids only when they receive a credible complaint and they want to investigate the corruption matter. Kejriwal is protecting corruption. And instead of immediately taking action against his officials, he is accusing the prime minister. This is worst kind of politics," he said.
"When the CBI is acting against corruption, he is accusing PM of corruption. This is absolutely unacceptable. He (Kejriwal) is exposed," Javadekar said.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the kind of language Kejriwal used against the PM was 'shocking' and 'insulting to our democratic traditions'.
'While holding a high office, exercising restraint and humbleness are greatly essential. A true leader will always reflect maturity in adversity. We may have difference of opinion but maintaining decorum and mutual respect are pillars of democracy. Sanctity of language is the first requisite,' the MP chief minister tweeted.
The Delhi unit of the BJP also reacted strongly to the 'words' used by Kejriwal and threatened to launch a 'pol khol' (expose) campaign against 'corruption' in the AAP government.
"The BJP workers will no longer tolerate the language used by Kejriwal against the PM. We will launch a ‘pol khol’ campaign to show to the people how his party is involved in corruption and that the Secretariat has become a den of corruption," Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay said.
Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta accused Kejriwal of 'defending' a 'corrupt' officer.
"The CBI often registers cases and conducts raids against the corrupt in the country, but it is first time that a chief minister has come forward to save a corrupt officer."
Referring to rule of law, he alleged that some people were trying to be above the law while people of Delhi were feeling 'betrayed' in this 'queer situation'.