Was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal always aware of the dubious background of certain legislators and chose to turn a blind eye until shamed publicly by the media?
Why did he choose people with such credentials to represent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), whose USP has been honesty?
The latest is Delhi’s Women and Child Development Minister Sandeep Kumar, who was sacked on Wednesday evening by the CM after receiving an ‘objectionable’ CD, in which the minister was purportedly shown in a ‘compromising position with two women’.
Prior to this, two other ministers — Jitender Singh Tomar and Asim Ahmed Khan — in Kejriwal’s Cabinet had met a similar fate in 2015 on the charges of fake degrees and bribery respectively.
“Within an hour of receiving the CD at his residence in Civil Lines, the CM sacked Sandeep Kumar, after having a high-level meeting with senior leaders. It’s a very unfortunate incidence and the CM didn’t hesitate to take strong action, which will be a message for others,” an AAP source said.
On 14 February, 2015, when Kejriwal after taking oath, promised an unprecedented, honest government to the people of Delhi, he wouldn’t have envisaged that quite a few of his legislators would have skeletons in their cupboards to embarrass him.
The decision to remove the minister was taken at a high-level meeting and the announcement was made by Kejriwal himself through a tweet.
"Received 'objectionable' CD of minister Sandeep Kr. AAP stands for propriety in public life. That can’t be compromised. Removing him from Cabinet wid immediate effect,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Recd "objectionable" CD of minister Sandeep Kr. AAP stands for propriety in public life. That can't be compromised(1/2)
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) August 31, 2016
The surprising part of this unfortunate episode is that unlike in the case of the other minister — Jitendra Singh Tomar, who resigned after his arrest in the bogus degree case — 36-year-old Kumar was not in the list of AAP candidates against whom the former leader and co-founder of AAP Prashant Bhushan had raised questions about their dubious reputation and referred the matter to party’s internal Lokpal.
That red flag against a dozen leaders turned out to be the bone of contention between Kejriwal and the duo — Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan — which ultimately led to the expulsion of the latter in 2015.
But, with time moving ahead, skeletons are tumbling out of AAP’s cupboard
The ‘bogus degree’ issue of the law minister had snowballed into a major political controversy in April, with the opposition parties demanding the minister’s sacking. But, what amazed the opposition was Kejriwal’s stoic silence on the entire controversy and not taking any action. The minister resigned only after the police arrested him in June.
Delhi’s Food & Civil Supplies minister Khan was sacked on charges of serious corruption, after a series of audio clips surfaced in public domain.
Similarly, there are many other AAP legislators with various charges against them, who could further embarrass Kejriwal and AAP. However, none of the sacked ministers has been expelled from the party.
“Three of the six ministers of Kejriwal government have already been sacked. One for forgery, second for bribery, whereas the third for adultery. But all three of them not only continue to be members of AAP, they also enjoy a status in the party. What stops Mr Kejriwal from removing them from the party? Does AAP act only when the misdeed committed by its legislators becomes undeniable and indefensible?” questioned Anupam, national executive member of Swaraj Abhiyan, an AAP splinter group.
The critics see this impromptu action of Kejriwal as a ‘face-saving exercise’ ahead of the upcoming Punjab Assembly polls.
“Ahead of Punjab election, Kejriwal has been compelled to sack the minister in order to save party’s image and project a good one, which otherwise has received a beating due to controversies and breakups in the state. The latest is the removal of the convener of Punjab AAP, Sucha Singh Chottepur,” Sardar Singh, an ex-AAP volunteer from Punjab remarked.
State BJP president Satish Upadhyay tweeted, “So Kejriwal had this sex CD for 15 days & sacked Sandeep Kumar only whn CD reached Media.”
— Satish Upadhyay (@upadhyaysbjp) August 31, 2016
But, Kejriwal’s action this time has got support from Delhi Commission for Women — a statutory body of the Delhi government.
DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal tweeted immediately after Kumar was sacked, “Acts of Sandeep Kumar shocking and unfortunate. Such people don't deserve to be Minister, yet alone WCD Minister! Good Govt has sacked him.”
Acts of Sandeep Kumar shocking and unfortunate. Such people don't deserve to be Minister, yet alone WCD Minister! Good Govt has sacked him.
— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) August 31, 2016
Here are some AAP MLAs under the scanner
- Akhilesh Pati Tripathi (Model Town): Six cases registered against him. Booked for molesting and misbehaving with a woman and rioting. Arrested in November, 2015.
- Manoj Kumar (Kondli): Cases of land grabbing, outraging a woman’s modesty and hurt filed against him. 4 FIRs registered at three east Delhi police stations. Arrested after 14 months in July, 2015.
- Mahinder Yadav (Vikaspuri): Various charges including rioting and assaulting public servant during a protest seeking action against an alleged sexual offender. Arrested on 29 January.
- Naresh Balyan (Uttam Nagar): Liquor bottles found from building allegedly owned by relative of this Uttam Nagar MLA ahead of polls. Balyan questioned.
- Somnath Bharti (Malviya Nagar): Former Delhi law minister. Case of attempt to murder, domestic violence, cheating registered on his wife Lipika Mitra’s complaint. Two other cases registered in connection with the Khirki raid in which African women were manhandled. Arrested in September 2015. Out on bail.
- Kartar Singh Tanwar (Chhatarpur): Under Income Tax lens. The I-T department reportedly found unaccounted income worth Rs 130 crore from Tanwar in August.
- Surinder Singh ‘commando’ (Delhi Cantt): Booked for making casteist remarks against an New Delhi Municipal Council sanitary inspector belonging to schedule caste and obstructing him and other NDMC employees from performing government duty. Arrested and got bail from court.
- Rakhi Birla (Mongolpuri): Booked for assault a government employee in 2014.
- Somdutt (Sadar Bazar): FIR against him and supporters for assaulting a person.
- Sanjeev Jha (Burari): Booked for rioting, injuring police personnel. Six volunteers were arrested