Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was questioned by the CBI on Sunday in the excise policy case, amid protests by his Aam Aadmi Party which accused the agency of acting at the behest of the BJP.
In a five-minute video message on Twitter before arriving at the heavily fortified headquarters of the Central Bureau of Investigation at around 11 am, Kejriwal claimed that the BJP might have ordered the agency to arrest him.
The AAP chief, who received solidarity messages from a number of opposition leaders after being summoned by the agency, asserted that he would honestly answer questions posed by the CBI in the excise case as he has nothing to hide.
The BJP, which accused Kejriwal of indulging in theatrics to divert attention from corruption, has dared him to undergo a lie-detector test and said it was not the time for rhetoric but accountability.
Kejriwal visited Mahatma Gandhi's memorial at Raj Ghat this morning and was accompanied by his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann and some cabinet colleagues to the CBI office.
While he was being questioned, several senior AAP leaders were "detained" by the Delhi Police while they were holding a sit-in at Archbishop Road against his summoning.
The detainees included Rajya Sabha MPs Sanjay Singh and Raghav Chadha, Delhi ministers Saurabh Bharadwaj, Atishi and Kailash Gahlot, AAP spokesperson Adil Ahmad Khan, AAP general secretary Pankaj Gupta and some ministers in the Punjab government.
"The Delhi Police has arrested us for sitting peacefully and is taking us to some unknown place... what kind of dictatorship is this?" Chadha tweeted.
"BJP suffers from chronic Kejriwal-phobia," he alleged.
Mann, who also joined the sit-in, had left the spot before the AAP leaders' detention.
"Around 1,500 people have been detained or arrested by police across Delhi for staging protests. Thirty-two Delhi MLAs and 70 councillors have been arrested in the city and 20 Punjab AAP MLAs have been arrested at Delhi border," AAP Delhi convener Gopal Rai claimed at a press conference.
After arriving at the agency headquarters, Kejriwal was taken to the first-floor office of the Anti-Corruption Branch of the CBI, which is probing the matter.
Senior officials of the agency remained present in the office on Sunday to keep an eye on the development, a normal course whenever a VIP comes to the agency, they said.
During the day, Kejriwal was offered a lunch break and he chose not to go outside the CBI office, sources said.
The questioning was still continuing till 5.30 pm.
AAP leader Manish Sisodia was arrested on February 26 after nearly eight hours of questioning in the case with officials saying his answers were not satisfactory. He quit as deputy chief minister of Delhi on February 28.
"I have been summoned by CBI today and I will give all the answers with honesty. These people are very powerful. They can send anyone to jail, it does not matter if that person has committed any crime or not," Kejriwal said on Sunday.
"Since yesterday, all of their leaders are screaming at top of their voices that Kejriwal will be arrested and I think BJP has instructed CBI also that Kejriwal should be arrested. If BJP has given an order, then who is CBI? CBI is going to arrest me," he said.
Meanwhile, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party used activist Anna Hazare to capture power in the name of corruption.
Rijiju also shared portions of an undated interview of Hazare in which the activist purportedly sounded critical of the Delhi excise policy.
"Now they have captured power I am sure they will not even listen to Annaji. Corruption was an excuse to fool Annaji and the people.
"Anna ji was used only to capture power and to loot the resources in the name of corruption," the Union minister wrote in English and Hindi on Twitter.
As Kejriwal's questioning got underway, top AAP leaders, including Mann, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Atishi, Kailash Gahlot, Sandeep Pathak, Raghav Chadha and Sanjay Singh gathered near the CBI headquarters and raised slogans against the prime minister.
Several AAP leaders, including Punjab ministers and MLAs, alleged they were stopped from entering Delhi.
The ruling party in Punjab claimed that ministers Bram Shanker Jimpa, Balbir Singh and Harjot Singh Bains, and MLAs Dinesh Chadha and Kuljit Randhawa were among those stopped at the Singhu border and not allowed to enter Delhi.
"We cannot even enter our capital? @DelhiPolice not allowing my car to enter Delhi," Punjab Education Minister Harjot Bains said in a tweet.
The agency had summoned Kejriwal on Friday last seeking his appearance as a witness before the investigation team to answer their queries on the inputs generated during the probe in which his former deputy Manish Sisodia was also arrested on February 26, the sources said.
They said the CBI may ask the chief minister about the policy formulation process, especially the "untraceable" file, which was earlier slated to be put before the Council of Ministers.
They said the file containing opinions of the expert committee and public and legal opinions on it was not kept before the council and remains untraceable.
The agency may also quiz Kejriwal on the statements of other accused, where they have indicated the manner in which policy was allegedly influenced to favour some liquor businessmen and the South liquor lobby, they said.
In addition, the officials said the agency might also seek his role in formulating the excise policy and his knowledge about the alleged influence being cast by the traders and South lobby members.
Kejriwal may also be asked if he was involved in the formulation of the policy before it was approved, they said.
It is alleged that the Delhi government's excise policy for 2021-22 to grant licences to liquor traders favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP. The policy was later scrapped.
Security was stepped up at the CBI headquarters with the Delhi Police putting in place four rings of barricading.
Over 1,000 security personnel, including from paramilitary forces, were deployed outside the CBI headquarters and Section 144 of the CrPC had also been imposed in the area to ensure no gathering of more than four persons takes place, they said.
Security had also been tightened outside the office of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at Rouse Avenue, the officials said.
Barricades were placed on streets leading to the AAP office and CBI headquarters to ensure the party's workers and supporters do not create any trouble, a senior police official said.
CBI officials have said they asked Kejriwal to appear on a Sunday as offices in the area remain closed. It had adopted the same strategy when Sisodia was called at the agency's headquarters.
As AAP workers held protests against the summoning of Chief Minister Kejriwal, traffic snarls were reported in many parts of the national capital.
Traffic jams were witnessed at many protest sites including Anand Vihar Terminal, ITO Chowk, Mukarba Chowk Peera Garhi Chowk, Lado Sarai Chowk, Crown Plaza Chowk, Dwarka More Sec 6 and Sec 2 Chauraha, Prem Wari Chauraha Ring Road, New Delhi Railway Station Ajmeri Gate Side and Bara Hanuman Mandir.
Police officials, along with the traffic units deployed at multiple locations, were persuading protesters to move from the roads and allow traffic.
"We have deployed sufficient force at these locations. We are persuading protesters to move because they are causing heavy traffic jams. If they are not cooperating, we are removing them from the spot," a senior police official said.
-With PTI Input