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Delhi’s Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar resigns, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia says Emergency-like situation

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New Delhi: A bitter battle between the central and AAP governments worsened on Tuesday as police arrested Delhi’s Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar amid high drama and secured a four-day police custody over his alleged fake degree. The AAP denounced the arrest as vendetta.

The minister late Tuesday submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, saying he did not want the image of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the government to be tarnished.

Earlier Tuesday, Metropolitan Magistrate Navjeet Budhiraja sent Tomar to police remand after police argued that the AAP leader was an influential man who could fabricate documents if he remained free.

Police slapped cases of cheating, criminal conspiracy and forgery after picking up Tomar from his office early in the morning and then dramatically taking him into custody.

There was no comment from Kejriwal. But a livid Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia called the arrest illegal and said that an “Emergency-like situation” was being imposed on the capital by Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung.

Delhi Police reports to the Lt. Governor and the union home ministry, and not the AAP government.

Delhi Police rejected charges of wrongdoing. Its chief B.S. Bassi maintained that the arrest was “within the parameters of law”. He said: “There is no conspiracy behind the arrest.”

The AAP, which took power in Delhi in February, accused police of roughing up Tomar. Delhi assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said he wasn’t informed about the arrest.

Sisodia said vested interests were ganging up against the AAP government because of its anti-corruption campaign.

He said about 40 policemen swooped on Tomar’s office and took him away as if he was a fugitive.

“Police told Tomar that they had come to see some documents… They asked him to accompany them to his house. On the way they told his driver to get off, took charge of the vehicle and told him that he was being detained,” said Sisodia, adding Tomar was told “that he could ask someone to bring the documents to the police station”.

“What is going on?” he asked. “Was he (Tomar) running away? Did he explode bombs in Delhi? There is an allegation (against him). The matter is in court. What was the need to arrest him?”

Sisodia added: “This arrest is illegal. There is an Emergency-like situation. This is supposed to be a democracy… Maybe it is an attempt to teach the AAP a lesson (for what we are doing).”

The arrest triggered protests by AAP supporters at the Hauz Khas police station in south Delhi where Tomar was initially taken. He was later moved to Vasant Vihar where AAP leaders Ashutosh and Kumar Vishwas staged a protest.

Tuesday’s arrest peaked a simmering row between the central and AAP governments over the powers of the Delhi government over the posting and transfer of senior officials. This too is now facing judicial scrutiny.

The arrest also coincided with an ugly turf war between the central and state governments over the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh asked: “If the case relates to a fake degree, will ministers Smriti Irani and Ram Shanker Katheria (of BJP) will also be taken to police station without any prior notice?”

Tomar told CNN-IBN that he didn’t know why he was arrested, adding it had been done to tarnish the AAP’s image.

Two cases are pending against Tomar in the Delhi High Court, alleging he enrolled himself as an advocate on the basis of a fake law degree and seeking cancellation of his election. Tomar says his degree is genuine.

“The case was very clear from the first day but Kejriwal turned a blind eye and let him (Tomar) continue as a minister,” Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay said.

“This is the first time a minister has been arrested,” added Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken.

But the CPI-M denounced the arrest as shocking, and said it was a clear case of vendetta politics. It asked Lt. Governor Jung to resign. (IANS)

 

Next Story

Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)