New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday summarily sacked Environment and Food Minister Asim Ahmed Khan for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 6 lakh from a builder and recommended a CBI probe into the case.
The sudden announcement of Khan's sacking by Kejriwal came at a press conference which was called at short notice.
Kejriwal said Khan was removed as part of AAP's zero tolerance policy towards graft and dared BJP to sack Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Madhya Pradesh's Shivraj Singh Chouhan, both of whom have been accused of corruption.
He said Imran Hussain, a first time MLA from Ballimaran in Old Delhi, will be the new face in his Cabinet. Khan is the second Minister to get the boot in the last eight months. In June, the then Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar had to resign over the fake degree row.
"The government will not tolerate corruption, be it by any MLA, Minister, official, Manish (Sisodia) or even by my son. If Manish commits corruption, I will take action, if I commit corruption Manish will take action against me," said Kejriwal.
Khan, on his part, called it a "big conspiracy" against him by the Opposition and said he will reveal it tomorrow.
"It is a big conspiracy by the Opposition. I will disclose it tomorrow. The party had told me to resign pending inquiry. So I resigned. The image of the party should remain clean," he said.
The Chief Minister claimed that it was for the first time in the history that a Minister has been sacked taking suo motu cognizance of graft charges, adding, "BJP should also sack Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan for corruption charges against them."
The decision to remove Khan was taken after he and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had gone through an one-hour-long audio clip last night containing purported telephonic conversation among the Minister, a mediator and the builder over the last one month, he said.
The audio was given to Kejriwal by a senior AAP leader on Thursday who was approached by a complainant whose identity has not been revealed, sources said.
Elaborating on the complaint against Khan, he said Khan allegedly demanded Rs 6 lakh from the builder to continue construction of an illegal building in his constituency of Matia Mahal in Old Delhi.
"We received a complaint last night that a building was being built in his constituency. It's construction was stopped and money was demanded from the builder, who paid the amount. There was a mediator between the MLA and the Minister," the Chief Minister said.
Kejriwal and Sisodia listened to the audio clip three-four times on Thursday night to ascertain its veracity and concluded that prima facie there was a strong case against Khan. He was summoned this morning and when confronted with the audio clip, Khan confessed to his wrongdoings, sources claimed.
The Chief Minister later held meeting with senior AAP leaders including Ashutosh and Kumar Vishwas. After the meeting, Kejriwal decided to remove Khan though some of the party leaders were of the view that his portfolios should be changed.
Reacting to the development, BJP and Congress said Kejriwal had no option but to remove the Minister as the allegations against the minister were in public domain for sometime,and demanded immediate appoinment of a Lokayukta.
The ruling AAP said Kejriwal had set a new benchmark in propriety and asked the Modi government and Chief Ministers of other states to follow his example.
"There will be no compromise with corruption. The decision has been taken with a heavy heart as there was a lot of trust involved. He's being removed till CBI probe is on," Kejriwal said.
The Chief Minister said a strong message has gone today that AAP government will not tolerate graft.
While the AAP said Khan's sacking reflected Kejriwal's strong resolve to fight graft, opposition parties questioned the integrity of the Delhi cabinet.
The demands of BJP and Congress ranged from convening a special session of the Delhi Assembly to immediate appointment of the state Lokayukta, a post lying vacant since November 2013.
"The party that has been formed to fight corruption is finding itself in such a position. What about the files that he (Asim) has signed over the past eight months?" Congress' Delhi chief Ajay Maken asked.
Former chief minsiter Sheila Dikshit, who was more guarded in her reaction, said that such actions should be taken only on the basis of strong evidence.
"You cannot just accuse somebody. Our question is that if there is some proof then the step that he has taken is correct but if there is no evidence and just an information then I don't think it is fair to the minister," she said.
Former Congress MLA Mukesh Sharma demanded a special session of the Delhi assembly to discuss the corruption issue and cancellation of membership of all AAP MLAs facing corruption charges.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that Kejriwal's attempt to project it as a "situation of virtue" was ironical as the former had no other option but to remove the minister.
In the clip, parts of which were played by Kejriwal during the press conference, a voice purportedly that of Khan is heard talking to the alleged mediator. One clip also features the builder's voice.
"I was in a four-hour long meeting with the CM. It just got over..." Khan is heard saying to the mediator in the clip.
At several points Khan negotiates the amount involved in the alleged transaction that led to his sacking. The government has not disclosed the name of the mediator or the builder till now.
Updated Date: Oct 10, 2015 08:56:55 IST