Kejriwal sacks food minister for corruption
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday publicly sacked Food Minister Asim Ahmed Khan for allegedly demanding Rs.6 lakh in bribe from a builder. Announcing this at a hurriedly called press conference where he played an audio tape of a conversation purportedly involving the builder, Khan and a middleman, Kejriwal said he won't tolerate corruption.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said the case was being referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). "We won't tolerate any corruption, even if it is by our ministers or legislators," said Kejriwal, flanked by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and official spokesman Nagendar Sharma.
"I'll not spare any minister, any legislator, even my son or even Manish. Strict action will be taken against anyone involved in corruption." And Sisodia must not spare him (Kejriwal) if he (chief minister) himself indulged in corruption, the AAP chief said. "I am sad to take this decision," he said. "Till the CBI completes the investigation, he (Khan) will not be a minister."
AAP legislator Imran Hussain will replace Khan in the Delhi cabinet. Kejriwal began his press conference by saying that the AAP was born from an anti-corruption movement. "We were forced to contest elections... People trust us only because of our honest politics and anti-corruption stand.
"We had dreamt of a corruption free India. And we had said we will not compromise on corruption at any cost." Still keeping the media guessing, Kejriwal said the step "we are going to take is a solid step" -- and he then announced Khan's sacking. He said an audio tape given to him on Thursday established the claim of the complainant that the minister demanded Rs.6 lakh from the builder for allowing illegal construction in his Matia Mahal constituency in Old Delhi.
"Prima facie it seems the matter is serious...We cannot tolerate this." He underlined that this was a decision of the AAP government, and that the media did not unearth this episode. Kejriwal went on to demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should similarly sack Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is linked to a recruitment scandal.
Khan is the second minister to bow out of the AAP government in disgrace. Then law minister Jitender Singh Tomar resigned under pressure in June after being arrested for allegedly faking his educational degree.
"If we can remove our minister, then we can take action against anyone," Kejriwal said on Friday. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the only opposition in the Delhi assembly where the AAP has 67 of the 70 seats, and the Congress made light of the minister's sacking.
"Sometimes Kejriwal fights with (Delhi's Lt Governor) Najeeb Jung, sometimes with PM (Narendra Modi), sometimes with (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh, and sometimes with his own people," said BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. "Let his stories of fights be left to him," he said.
Congress spokesperson R.P.N. Singh added: "This is the situation when there is no Lokpal in Delhi. Imagine if there was one, the whole cabinet would have to resign."