New Delhi: Around 10am, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's aide Arunoday Prakash walked up towards his office on the third floor of Players Building, the secretariat of the Delhi government near the Yamuna river.
As Prakash climbed the stairs, he spotted some men in plain clothes, standing abreast at the two pathways to approach the office.
"One of them said, 'Leave, a CBI raid is in progress'. I wasn't shown any paper or anything," Prakash said.
Thus began one of the most explosive and acrimonious confrontations in contemporary politics, with Kejriwal calling the Prime Minister "a psychopath" and "a coward" and pitching himself to the forefront of the forces arrayed against Narendra Modi.
CBI sleuths had descended on the third floor that houses the chief minister's office and blocked the entry points apparently to search the room of his principal secretary, Rajendra Kumar.
Rajendra, a batchmate of Kejriwal in IIT Kharagpur, is considered the second-most powerful man in the Delhi government after the chief minister. The IAS officer is facing allegations of foul play in awarding government contracts valued at Rs 9.42 crore since 2007.
The CBI had armed itself with a search warrant but had not informed the chief minister that it would be sealing access to his office floor. CBI sources later defended the agency by saying advance information defeats the very purpose of a search, although Kejriwal is not an accused but a chief minister who has taken an oath to keep such secrets.
Kejriwal, said to be giving finishing touches to a plan to spread out beyond Delhi, grabbed the opportunity gifted by the CBI and its masters, concentrating his firepower on Modi.
Minutes after Prakash was blocked, Kejriwal, who was at home, put out a series of tweets. The most vituperative one was "Modi is a coward and a psychopath", which was retweeted 5,400 times by the evening.
Kejriwal had a field day on Twitter. Some samples: "CBI raids my office... When Modi cudn't handle me politically, he resorts to this cowardice... CBI lying. My own office raided. Files of CM office are being looked into. Let Modi say which file he wants?"
Potential federal front aspirant Mamata Banerjee was quick to close ranks with Kejriwal. "Sealing of a Chief Minister's office is unprecedented. I am shocked," the Bengal chief minister tweeted.
Kejriwal responded: "Mamata Di. This is undeclared emergency."
The CBI's timing could not have been worse: it came in the middle of allegations of political vendetta that have disrupted Parliament and paralysed legislative business.
The Delhi raid reached Parliament, too.
Replying to Trinamul's Derek O'Brien in the Rajya Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley clarified: "The raid has nothing to do with Mr Arvind Kejriwal. The raid has nothing to do with the tenure of Mr Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister of Delhi. There is a corruption case. There is a complaint with the CBI against one officer in the Delhi government. The office of that officer is attached to the office of the chief minister."
However, Delhi government sources said the chief minister's staff were kept out of their office by CBI sleuths. Some junior Delhi government officials were asked by the CBI to fish out files from the rooms of Rajendra as well as Kejriwal, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia claimed.
By noon, Kejriwal had reached Sisodia's bungalow, which was earlier occupied by then chief minister Sheila Dikshit. The AAP leadership went into a huddle and Kejriwal continued to tweet from the house, 2km from the secretariat.
"FM (finance minister) lied in Parliament. My own office files are being looked into to get some evidence against me. Rajendra is an excuse," the chief minister tweeted.
" Rajendra bahana hai, Kejriwal nishana hai (Rajendra is the excuse, Kejriwal is the target)," became a refrain among AAP leaders.
At 6.30pm, Kejriwal stepped out and upped the ante.
"It has become necessary to say why the CBI came today and which was the file they were looking for. This is the DDCA file in which Arun Jaitley is getting trapped," the chief minister said.
The DDCA is the Delhi and District Cricket Association, of which Chetan Chauhan is working president and Jaitley is a former president. Chauhan is believed to be a Jaitley supporter. Some cricket veterans had met Kejriwal in August and complained about mismanagement of the DDCA, following which the government ordered a probe.
Kejriwal added: "Jaitley was the DDCA president for many years and I set up a committee to probe all the corruption that has taken place during his tenure. The committee has submitted its report and a commission of inquiry is going to be set up. This file is in my office."
Jaitley dismissed the charge as "rubbish".
By then, Kejriwal had looked straight at TV cameras, raised his voice and pointed his left index finger to warn his principal adversary: " Mein aapko bata doon, Modiji.... aakhri saans tak, mein mar mitoonga, desh ke liye ladta rahoonga lekin. Aur mein in Modiji ke CBI se, aur tut-panjiyon se, aur geedad-bhabkiyon se nahi darne wala. Yeh mein unko saaf saaf keh dena chahta hoon.... (I am telling you, Modiji.... I will fight till my last breath, till I die, but for my country I will keep on fighting. And I want to tell Modiji's CBI, his lackeys, that I am not scared of their jackal-like empty threats. I want to make this clear to them.)"
Kejriwal added that he would apologise for his words if Modi did so for his deeds.