In spite of getting embroiled in controversies, ranging from a domestic violence case to threatening security guards of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Malviya Nagar Somnath Bharti has always remained dear to the party’s top leadership.
With more than a dozen of AAP MLAs already being arrested by the police on various charges (and subsequently given bail), Bharti stands out among others. Though arrested on Thursday for allegedly assaulting Aiims security guards, Bharti is no first-timer. He was earlier arrested and released on bail in 2015.
The original ‘bad boy’ legislator of AAP, Bharti’s name surfaced from time to time in relation to one issue or the other. If at one time it had been related to charges of domestic violence by his wife, on the other it was by Ugandan women over a midnight raid at Khirki Extension in South Delhi.
Bharti no first-timer
Prior to the latest incident of allegedly assaulting Aiims guards, there had been a series of complaints against Bharti.
The Delhi police had registered a case of attempt to murder, domestic violence and cheating against Bharti on his wife Lipika Mitra’s complaint in 2015. In her 26-page complaint, Mitra had also accused him of forgery.
In 2011 too, she had lodged a domestic abuse complaint against him, with the Delhi police cell for crimes against women, which she later withdrew.
Even during the 49-day AAP government in 2014, Bharti had made it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He had then led a midnight raid on a private house in Khirki extension in New Delhi, in which he and his supporters were accused of forcing four Ugandan women to undergo medical tests for proof of narcotics. Bharti had allegedly personally led the raid after the Delhi police refused to comply with his instructions.
The repercussion of his alleged ‘high-handedness’ against the Ugandan women trickled down at the party level, and there again Bharti had an encounter with one of the founding members of AAP – Madhu Bhaduri, a former diplomat, who was a national council member of AAP, but later resigned.
After a lot of drama, Bharti was arrested in September 2015. He was later released on bail.
What makes Bharti different from other arrested MLAs?
There are a few AAP leaders – whether a minister or an MLA — who had to lose their jobs after getting arrested by the police, though they had been a first-timer. Minister Sandeep Kumar was not only sacked after a sleaze CD allegedly showing him in a compromising position became public, but was also strongly condemned by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Similarly, 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. However, they were all first-timers unlike Bharti.
“Somnath Bharti did no wrong. It was the Aiims management, who encroached a parking space and Bharti along with the PWD and police visited the spot to remove them. There was nothing illegal in the action. Police complaint against him was politically motivated, like in case of some of our other legislators. Had Bharti been wrong in any of the cases, Arvind wouldn’t have tolerated him and thrown him out despite being named in so many controversies,” a senior AAP member said on condition of anonymity.
After her brush with Bharti during national council meeting in 2014, Madhu Bhaduri had told Firstpost, “I was heckled in the meeting of the national council of AAP on 31 January, 2014, when I tried to raise the issue of midnight raid on Ugandan women. In spite of this, the party supported Bharti, which shows the AAP leadership has the same mentality as khap panchayats on gender justice.”
However, there are many old-timers in AAP who would like to differ.
“Everyone is aware what goes on at Khirki extension and what Bharti did was not wrong. It was the locals who had approached him to solve their problem and being the local MLA, he did what was right. Bharti is not only educated, but has a strong support base among party volunteers due to his courage to lead from the front,” shared a senior AAP volunteer of south Delhi.
“Bharti has intentionally been projected as a bad boy by the Congress and the BJP. He can’t be compared with other AAP legislators who have been arrested and sacked from their posts. Our CM takes him seriously,” the senior volunteer added.
Even in the case of latest allegation against Bharti related to assault on Aiims guards, the party has backed him strongly, though remains tight-lipped after his arrest.