Senior AAP leader Atishi, who is set to become the first woman minister in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi Cabinet, has been a key member of the team tasked with implementing the party’s educational reforms in the national capital.
Atishi, along with AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj, are the two leaders whose names have been forwarded for appointment as ministers after Kejriwal’s trusted lieutenants Manish Sisodia and Satyender Jain, both arrested on corruption charges, resigned from their Cabinet posts.
Bharadwaj (43) is the party’s national spokesperson and currently serving as the vice-chairman of the Delhi Jal Board. The two leaders are usually at the forefront in interactions with media and during various protests organised by the party.
Speaking to PTI, Bharadwaj said, “The Centre wanted to stop the work done in Delhi and we will not let that happen. We are thankful to the CM for having faith in me and Atishi, and we will continue to work for the people of Delhi.”
Atishi (41), who represents the Kalkaji constituency in the assembly, had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from the East Delhi seat but she lost to the BJP’s Gautam Gambhir.
Bharadwaj, who is a three-time MLA from the Greater Kailash assembly constituency, has also served as a transport minister in the Delhi cabinet during the first stint of the AAP government.
A computer science engineer, Bharadwaj is also a law graduate from the Osmania University. He has worked abroad for a brief period of time before the joining the Aam Aadmi Party in 2013.
While Sisodia, who was handling 18 of the total 33 departments in the Delhi government, was arrested on Sunday evening by the CBI in the Delhi excise policy case, Jain, currently lodged in Tihar jail, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in May last year in connection with a money laundering case.
Jain continued to be a minister in the Delhi government even after his arrest.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Tuesday said AAP leader Manish Sisodia has been arrested in an “open and shut case of corruption” and that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should also be arrested for his alleged involvement in the excise policy case.
The two leaders are “deeply involved in corruption” and should be dealt with accordingly, Congress leader Ajay Maken said.
Sisodia was arrested by the CBI in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy for 2021-22. “This is an open and shut case of corruption and a big scam has taken place in Delhi, and it should be viewed accordingly,” Maken said.
He said Kejriwal should also be arrested in the case. “It has now been established in one of the chargesheets and one of the accused liquor barons has said he was made to speak to Kejriwal on Facetime,” he added.
The Kejriwal government had set up a committee to recommend changes in the excise policy but just the opposite of what the panel recommended was done “so that corruption could be done”, Maken charged.
The Congress leader claimed Sisodia and Kejriwal are “deeply involved in corruption” and asserted that they should be dealt with accordingly.
“Those who are sympathising with Manish Sisodia should know that this is a matter of corruption and it should be viewed accordingly,” Maken told PTI.
The AAP, which is projecting the action against Sisodia as “injustice”, should answer as to why changes were made against the recommendations of the committee, he said.
Maken further said, “I would also like to ask the central government not to misuse central agencies even in a genuine case like this and make it seem like political vendetta. They should use them sparingly.”
Some Congress leaders including Abhishek Singhvi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot have spoken in support of Sisodia and accused the government of misusing agencies against opposition leaders. Singhvi, who is also Sisodia’s lawyer in court, later clarified that his remarks did not represent the Congress’ stand.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Congress also lashed out at the AAP and alleged that fair probe “will not be possible” as long as Arvind Kejriwal remains in power.
“Kejriwal and his entire cabinet should step down. They are fully immersed in corruption. As long as Kejriwal remains in power, there will not be an independent probe in the liquor scam, and therefore he should also submit his resignation,” Delhi Congress president Anil Chaudhary said.