If the fight with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung gave splitting headache to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, then his own MLAs are only adding to his worries. Though the party is into a fire-fighting mode, the damage is irreparable and self-inflicted.
For instance, soon after the appointment of Jitender Singh Tomar as law minister, the matter of fake degree came to fore but the party did nothing to address the issue. Even when Tomar was arrested for allegedly possessing a fake law degree, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia merely declared it as an ‘emergency like situation’ based on an RTI query, advocate Ripudaman Singh Bhardwaj filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking cancellation of Tomar’s registration. Though the petitioner withdrew his complaint, the court went ahead with its action and subsequently the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) asked Tomar to come up with an explanation by 20 March.
Finally, Tomar was arrested. Unfazed by the arrest, Tomar maintained that his degree was ‘valid’ and the case against him was politically motivated. Contrary to his claim, reports say that Tomar failed to recognise his classroom, batch mates and teachers when he was taken to Awadh University, Faizabad (UP) by the police for physical verification.
Tomar’s case fuelled the dissenting voices within the party. The party MLA from Timarpur Pankaj Pushkar asked Kejriwal to apologise to the people of Delhi for not acting on time. He said, “The biggest damage has been inflicted upon public trust. The party and Kejriwal should definitely apologise to the people of Delhi.”
Clarifying on the matter, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh tells Tehelka: “Initially we found his certificates to be genuine. We are not an investigative agency, so you can’t expect us to be impeccable in scrutinising anyone’s details.” He also hinted at Tomar’s possible expulsion from the party.
With Tomar’s controversy on the upswing, former BJP legislator from Delhi cantonment Karan S Tanwar fired a fresh salvo at another AAP MLA Surender Singh. Tanwar alleged that Singh gave wrong information in his affidavit about his BA degree from Sikkim University in 2012. The 36-year-old Singh left the army in 2011 and contested the 2013 Delhi Assembly election on the AAP ticket. While the Delhi Police have started the preliminary investigation into the matter, Tanwar has already approached the Delhi High Court.
Vishesh Ravi from Karol Bagh constituency is another AAP MLA to get embroiled in a fake degree controversy. Former AAP legislator Rajesh Garg has filed a complaint against Ravi for furnishing false information about his educational qualification in poll affidavits. Clarifying to a news agency Ravi said, “Last time I had no electoral experience. But what I filed this time is completely true. I am pursuing BA from IGNOU.”
Then comes the case of domestic violence against Somnath Bharti. In a 26-page complaint to Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Bharti’s wife Lipika Mitra has accused the former minister of subjecting her to prolonged verbal and physical abuse. Refuting the charges, Bharti, who had been asked to appear before the DCW on 26 June, said, “We got married in 2010 and since then we have not been living together.”
Speaking to Tehelka, former ally Shazia Ilmi says, “Not just Somnath but the entire party has a feudal mindset. They cannot take women with intelligence and capacity.”
If this is not enough, then another AAP MLA Rakhi Birla has landed AAP in another soup. Delhi bjp president of Delhi Satish Upadhyay has accused the Mongolpuri mla of corruption charges. Referring to an rti reply, Upadhyay claimed that Birla had allegedly purchased a solar street light worth 15,000 for Rs 1 lakh and had also bought a CCTV unit worth 10,000 for Rs 6 lakh. Upadhyay also claimed that the BJP had information of similar purchases made by six AAP MLAs, including a former minister. Referring to the various controversies, Ashutosh tells Tehelka: “It is due to the frustration of the BJP and the Congress that these cases are being filed against our leaders.”