With the Delhi High Court striking down the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s retrospective appointment of 21 parliamentary secretaries, the party finds itself in a major crisis situation. This has been the latest blow for the AAP government, which has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons ever since it was sworn in here in February last year.
Even last week, the party made headlines following the arrest of Sandeep Kumar, the now sacked AAP government’s women and child development minister, over an alleged “sex scandal”. The trouble for the party did not end there. Senior party leader Ashutosh has also been recently summoned by the National Commission for Women over a blog written by him in Kumar’s support.
The party also faces fresh trouble in Punjab, after its party MLA, Colonel Devinder Sehrawat wrote a letter to AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, alleging that women in Punjab were being exploited in return for tickets to fight the Assembly polls in the state due next year. The party also recently expelled its Punjab “Prabhari” Sucha Singh Chhotepur over an alleged “bribery” issue.
In the past 20 months of its governance in Delhi, 12 of its MLAs have been arrested on various charges and three of the total six ministers — Jitender Singh Tomar, Sandeep Kumar, Asim Ahmed Khan — have either been sacked or arrested on account of alleged corruption, forgery and sex scandal. This works out to a figure where every one-and-a-half-month, one or the other AAP MLA in Delhi has faced the law for all the wrong reasons.
Five of the party’s MLAs — Sharad Chauhan, Amanatullah Khan, Dinesh Mohaniya, Somanth Bharti, Prakash Jarwal — have been arrested for crimes against women, including molestation and harassment charges. Sharad Chauhan, the AAP MLA from Narela, was also charged with abetment to suicide of an AAP woman volunteer.
In the past 20 months of its governance in Delhi, 12 of its MLAs have been arrested on various charges and three of the total six ministers — Jitender Singh Tomar, Sandeep Kumar, Asim Ahmed Khan — have either been sacked or arrested on account of alleged corruption, forgery and sex scandal.
While Kondli MLA Manoj Kumar was arrested in a case of alleged land grabbing and cheating, Akhilesh Tripathi and Mahendra Yadav was arrested allegedly for rioting. Others like Jagdeep Singh, Naresh Yadav, Surinder Singh were arrested in cases of alleged beating and assault, hurting religious sentiments and casteist remarks, respectively.
The AAP has, however, maintained that all this is nothing but “vendetta”. However, if party insiders and former AAP members are to be believed, the entire ticket distribution system during the 2015 Delhi elections was a “farce”.
Shazia Ilmi, former AAP member and present BJP member, told The Sunday Guardian that the tall claims made by Kejriwal about the screening committee for ticket distribution was “false” and thus the skeletons are now tumbling out of the closet.
“There is little in what Arvind says that one can believe. There was absolutely no transparency. People with credible support and background who were sending us their resumes were ignored and tickets were only given to people who were close to Arvind. They are only masters of great words and noble ideals, but there was complete betrayal of these ideals when it came to execution,” Ilmi said.
Ilmi also accused party volunteers of harassing her during her days in AAP when she was contesting from the RK Puram constituency in Delhi, maintaining that despite her repeated complaints to senior leaders, no actions were taken.
The Congress also criticised the AAP over its claims of a fair ticket distribution system. Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee said, “Contrary to character certificates given by Kejriwal to his MLAs and ministers, it seems that AAP’s claim of scrutiny of its candidates before election was nothing but a hoax, or even worse. Fraudulent people were given tickets knowingly, despite warning being given about them as claimed by Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav — a law minister with allegedly forged degrees, another ex-law minister charged with domestic violence, corruption charges against another, accusation of molestation and misbehaviour with women against several MLAs, sex scandal, etc. AAP has managed to get caught in a variety of alleged misdeeds by its ministers and senior leaders within a surprising short span of just one and a half years. The lofty moral principles and promise of ushering in an era of clean politics seems to have been nothing, but a bubble that burst too soon.”
Sources in the AAP said that the party is concerned about the crisis situation it is currently facing, keeping in mind the Punjab elections. A source said that Arvind Kejriwal, who is currently visiting Punjab, would look into all the allegations that have been made in respect to the AAP’s chapter in Punjab and devise a more stringent process of scrutiny for distribution of tickets to mitigate further embarrassment to the party in Punjab.
However, the official response of the party has been that there were enough of background checks during the ticket distribution process and there is no crisis in the AAP presently.
Somnath Bharti, former Delhi law minister and senior AAP leader, told this newspaper, “We cannot predict what people would turn out to be in the future. We have a strict screening process of candidates where background, character and corruption cases of the person concerned are thoroughly checked. We, however, cannot give a certificate of a nature that AAP is a party of all saints. Similarly, nor can we say that the BJP is a party of all gundas, but the difference between us and other parties is that we take action as soon as something irregular is brought to our notice.”