SC Vats, considered the political mentor of Jitender Singh Tomar, described the arrested law minister as an “enthusiastic social worker” who caught his attention 17 years ago.
“He was an independent and enthusiastic worker,” Vats said while recalling his decade-long stint working with Tomar.
For years, Tomar had been a point man for Vats, a former Congress legislator from north Delhi, and used to ensure that his office ran smoothly. Some even considered Tomar as Vats’ Man Friday.
“We met in 1998, when he (Tomar) used to work as a social worker in Shakurpur. While he stood out because of the enthusiasm he showed towards social development and uplift of the people, we gradually parted ways in 2008 after he turned to follow his ambitions,” said Vats.
But that was not what he had aimed for. Tomar wanted to be a legislator like his mentor Vats and thought that having a law degree would help. He got a law degree, which is now being termed fake, but was unable to climb the cramped Congress party ladder.
Vats says Tomar never mentioned his degree during the entire time they worked together. “We were interested in developmental works and educational qualifications were not the first things to look up to,” he said.
In his journey in the political space, the biggest turning point came when his old friend, Rajesh Garg, now a critic of Arvind Kejriwal, suggested him to join the nascent Aam Aadmi Party before the 2013 assembly elections and seek a ticket from Tri Nagar in north Delhi.
Sensing an opportunity, Tomar joined the rookie party and got a ticket as the party did not have any formidable candidate against senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg in the segment.
Tomar lost by less than 3,000 votes in 2013 polls but cemented his place in the AAP.
He was the main logistics person for Arvind Kejriwal’s election from Varanasi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and party insiders say that his quick networking skills impressed the AAP chief. From then on, there was no looking back for Tomar.
He turned out to be the party’s main strategist and got a go-ahead to contest from Tri Nagar more than six months before the February 2015 polls. He won hands down against Nand Kishore Garg this time.
Luck favoured him again when it came to the selection of the Delhi cabinet. Kejriwal was reluctant to have Somnath Bharti, once considered close to AAP co-founder-turned-rebel Prashant Bhushan, as his law minister.
So Kejriwal picked Tomar, who became Delhi’s youngest law minister at the age of 48. The chief minister stood by him when his law degree was challenged in the high court and claimed that he had done nothing wrong.
Tomar, now a minister in the AAP government, was arrested on Tuesday on charges of allegedly submitting a forged law degree while filing his nomination for the 2015 assembly polls. He has denied all charges.