The Aam Aadmi Party appointed Delhi Jal Board vice-chairman Kapil Mishra as the law minister on Wednesday as his predecessor Jitender Singh Tomar approached a trial court against his arrest for allegedly forging academic documents.
The Tri Nagar legislator mounted a strong defence while being taken to Faizabad for interrogation but his troubles deepened after the RML Avadh University in Uttar Pradesh denied having awarded him an undergraduate degree.
"My degree is absolutely genuine. It is a conspiracy by BJP and the central government. Yes, They are not letting AAP government work," he said but sources confirmed the roll number he provided did not match the university’s records.
Police has charged Tomar with cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy on a May 11 complaint by the city’s bar council that said he submitted forged academic documents including mark sheets, a BSC degree, provisional documents and a law degree to the body in 2010.
The 48-year-old’s arrest had vitiated already strained ties between the Centre and the Delhi government, which accused the Union home ministry of indulging in political vendetta and called the situation “Emergency-like”.
"Those who oppose Modi govt have to pay the price. Tomorrow don't be surprised if AAP leaders are killed in road accidents. But we will fight," senior AAP leader Ashutosh tweeted.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy CM Manish Sisodia met Jung to hand over Tomar’s resignation and inform him of Mishra’s appointment and is learnt to have talked about better coordination with Raj Niwas.
The AAP has been locked in a bitter turf war with lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung over administrative control of the Capital. The month-long confrontation has paralysed city governance as both sides have sparred over files and a series of bureaucratic appointments.
In spite of the bitter personal history, sources said the meeting went well with the L-G coming out on the porch to see the CM off.
The arrest is the latest in a string of controversies to hit the party that was born out of an anti-corruption stir and rode a wave of personal goodwill for Kejriwal to power in February. Since then, however, the two-year-old outfit has hurtled from crisis to crisis, with each episode chipping away at the credibility of the CM.
Both the BJP and Congress have blamed Kejriwal for the fiasco. "How can the CM not know the degree provided by his law minister was fake? The government went all out to support his appointment but he finally had to resign. Kejriwal needs to apologise,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Tomar’s troubles began in February when a petition in the high court accused the minister of using a fake undergraduate degree to enrol as a law student -- corroborated in an RTI reply by the university that said his degree, mark sheet, and roll number were “completely fabricated”.
The bar council initiated an inquiry shortly afterwards.
In April, Bihar's Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, from where Tomar claimed to have obtained his law degree, told the court the provisional certificate was not "genuine" and didn’t exist in the official records. A BJP leader has also dragged Tomar to the court on charges of lying in his election nomination papers, an accusation that may cost the AAP legislator his seat.
(with inputs from agencies)