New Delhi:

In an explosive turn of events Monday, Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena has called for an anti-terror probe into allegations Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal received political funding from the banned Sikhs For Justice group founded by wanted terrorist Gurpatwant Pannun.

Mr Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party hit back swiftly via senior leader Saurabh Bhardwaj, who dismissed the call for a probe by the National Investigation Agency as a “conspiracy” against the party and its leader. “LG sir is an agent of the BJP… This is another big conspiracy against Chief Minister Kejriwal at the behest of the BJP,” he said in a brief statement.

The allegations – the latest in a long-running and fierce war between the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party in power at the centre – come less than three weeks before the national capital votes in the general election. In 2019 the BJP won all Delhi’s seven seats.

In a detailed letter to the Union Home Secretary, Mr Saxena referred to a video (which he said was enclosed with the missive) in which Pannun declares Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party “received a staggering amount of $16 million in funding from Khalistani groups…” 

“… Kejriwal purportedly promised to facilitate release of Devender Pal Bhullar, in return for substantial financial backing from Khalistani factions to Aam Aadmi Party…” the LG’s letter said, citing a complaint from a Hindu religious body and tweets by a former AAP worker.

The AAP boss also reportedly received money to “espouse pro-Khalistani sentiments”.

Bhullar, a former professor, was convicted in the 1993 Delhi bomb blasts case. In 2001 he was given the death sentence but that was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Arvind Kejriwal is already in jail over corruption charges linked to the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam that is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation. Mr Kejriwal and the AAP have denied all charges, labelling them acts of “political vendetta” by the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Mr Kejriwal has challenged his arrest – he was arrested March 21 – in the Supreme Court. He was the third top AAP leader to be arrested in this case, after ex-Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. Mr Singh is out on bail.

Arvind Kejriwal has argued that his arrest was illegal since there is no evidence linking him to the alleged crime. The top court, which is still hearing the case, has said it will consider bail for Mr Kejriwal so he can campaign for his party for the forthcoming Delhi election.