Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday sacked one of his ministers for allegedly demanding a bribe from a builder, dramatically announcing the decision at a press conference where he also recommended a CBI probe into the case.
The Aam Aadmi Party chief, flanked by his deputy Manish Sisodia, played out four audio clips of environment and food and supplies minister Asim Ahmed Khan allegedly demanding Rs 6 lakh from a builder to allow illegal construction on a plot in his constituency, Matia Mahal, in the walled city.
“We received a complaint last night. Manish and I listened to the audio clip, did a preliminary assessment… and have decided to remove Asim Ahmed from the cabinet. We are referring this complaint to the CBI. Till the CBI does not complete its inquiry, Asim Ahmed will not serve as a minister,” Kejriwal said.
“The decision will send a message to all that if they can take action against their own minister, no one will be spared, not even my son,” he added. He also dared the BJP to follow suit and remove Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who are facing corruption cases.
No formal complaint has yet been registered against Khan. The party has sent the case to its internal lokpal too.
“I am shocked and surprised. I was asked to resign and I have. There is a conspiracy behind it. I will reveal it,” said Khan — the second AAP minister to be sacked after Jitender Tomar (law), who resigned under party pressure in June after he was arrested for allegedly faking his educational qualifications.
The action against Khan comes days after the arrest of party MLA Somnath Bharti, law minister in the previous 49-day AAP regime, in a domestic violence case. Bharti faces police action in another case too, that involving the midnight raid on African women in south Delhi.
Twenty legislators of AAP — which rode to power in Delhi on its promise of corruption-free rule — have cases registered against them. Of these, four have been arrested.
Khan, 38, is a first-time legislator who emerged a giant-killer in the assembly polls earlier this year when he defeated five-time MLA Shoaib Iqbal of the Congress. Ballimaran MLA Imran Hussain will replace him in the cabinet, Kejriwal said, but his portfolio is yet to be decided.
Khan alleged that he was the victim of a conspiracy. “I’m shocked. Let me gather all the details. I will answer all questions tomorrow (Saturday),” Khan told mediapersons.
The AAP government did not reveal the source of the tape, though sources said it was around an hour long and recorded over the past month. At the conference, Kejriwal played out four clips running into about four minutes where a voice, allegedly of Khan, is negotiating the R6-lakh bribe deal with a middleman while confirming the size of the plot and the middleman’s cut of the money.
According to the sources, the decision to sack Khan was taken after the CM held a meeting with the party leadership, including Kumar Vishwas, Ashish Khetan and Ashutosh, on Friday morning. Khan was summoned by the CM around 1.30pm and confronted with the facts.
“Asim was informed about the decision before the press conference,” a senior AAP member said. The sources said Khan sought to defend himself by calling it a “business deal”.
While Kejriwal’s dramatic move earned him praise among his supporters, rival BJP and Congress leaders called it a political stunt.
“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.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said 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.
“One of his ministers has been caught red-handed taking bribe and there was no option but to sack him,” Patra said.