Delhi’s now-withdrawn excise policy, which has triggered a political slugfest between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP and put Arvind Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia in the dock, continues to hit headlines every day. On Monday, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia dropped a bomb as he claimed to have received a message from the saffron party with the condition to “break AAP” and switch over to get all cases against him closed.
“I have received a message from the BJP — Break AAP and join BJP. We will ensure that all cases by CBI and ED against you are closed. “My reply to BJP — I am a descendant of Maharana Pratap and a Rajput. I am ready to get beheaded but can never bow down before conspirators and corrupt people. All the cases against me are false. Do whatever you want to do," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Sisodia tops the list of 15 accused named by the CBI in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Delhi excise policy. If the latest developments are anything to go by, the agency is likely to expand its probe after it issues Lookout Circulars against eight private individuals.
Of these, a name that has generated buzz is that of Vijay Nair, who has close links with several stand-up comedians and companies related to them. According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Nair is a businessman and former CEO of an event management company called Only Much Louder (OML). He is also associated with firms such as Babblefish and Motherswear.
Sisodia had called some journalists for an interaction but grew uncomfortable and called it off when asked about Vijay Nair, accused number 5 in the excise scam, the only non-bureaucrat, non-liquor business owner in the list of 16, purported to be close to Kejriwal.Who is Nair?
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) August 21, 2022
Nair made a name for himself in the industry by organising music festivals such as the Invasion Festival, Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and the television show ‘The Dewarists’.
According to the FIR registered by the CBI, Nair was “actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of the excise policy of GNCTD of Delhi for the year 2021-22”.
Among the accused, Nair is the only person who has no links to politics, is not a bureaucrat or a liquor business owner. Several media reports said a number of stand-up comedians and social media influencers are under the agency’s scanner and CBI officials are looking into some ‘toolkit modules’ that could have been used to generate positive response for a liberal liquor sale policy.
While Nair is not associated with any political party, he reportedly served as a “part-time volunteer” for the AAP in 2019 as the party campaigned for the 2020 Delhi elections.
The BJP was quick to attack the Kejriwal-led party over links with Nair, with BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya tweeting: “Sisodia had called some journalists for interaction but grew uncomfortable and called it off when asked about Vijay Nair, accused number 5 in the excise scam, the only non-bureaucrat, a non-liquor business owner in the list of 16, purported to be close to Kejriwal. Who is Nair?”
Speaking to the Caravan magazine, AAP MLA Atishi Marlena said in 2019 that Nair was an ‘ad-hoc worker’. However, the party’s national council member Ankit Lal rebutted the claim and said the ex-OML CEO had been associated with AAP for over 5-6 years and helped with strategising digital campaigns.
With the revelation of Nair’s name, another name doing the rounds is that of comedian Vir Das, the director of Weirdass Comedy, which is associated with Nair, the Hindustan Times reported.
The CBI said Nair was missing during the raids it conducted on August 19, though the businessman later clarified that he did not flee the country and was abroad for some weeks due to personal work. He added that he was in touch with the agency and would cooperate with its officials.