In a move that took his own party by surprise, AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced at a press conference on Friday that his government has sacked Food and Civil Supplies and Environment Minister Asim Ahmed Khan on alleged charges of corruption.
Kejriwal also said that his government has referred the alleged charges to the CBI and appointed first-time MLA from Ballimaran, Imran Hussain, to take over Khan’s portfolio.
With Deputy CM Manish Sisodia seated next to him, Kejriwal said the decision to sack Khan was based on taped conversations purportedly between the Minister and “a liaison between… a builder” which indicate that the Matia Mahal MLA allegedly took a bribe of Rs 6 lakh to allow the construction of a building in his constituency.
The AAP government also released a four-minute clip from a purported one-hour compilation of taped conversations between Khan and an unidentified man allegedly spread over one or two months.
The released clip did not appear to provide any conclusive evidence but included lines purportedly uttered by Khan, such as these: “Muchse chhe keh gaya tha, aapko teen pe daal diya. Aapko beech mein daalkar mujhe nuksaan ho gaya. Mein apne aap kar loonga. Mere samne bolne ki itni himmat nahi hoti (He told me six and told you three. I think I have suffered a loss by involving you in this. I will handle this. He would not have had the courage to speak in front of me)”.
Saying that Khan’s sacking would drive home the anti-corruption message for every bureaucrat, MLA and minister, Kejriwal turned on the BJP and sought the sacking of Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Raje has been facing allegations linked to former IPL chief Lalit Modi while Chouhan has faced the heat over the Vyapam admissions scam.
”We have removed our Cabinet minister over corruption charges. We want the BJP too should take action against Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje,” said Kejriwal.
Elaborating on the charges against Khan, Kejriwal said: “The complainant sent us an hour-long clip along with the written complaint. Manish and I listened to the clip, did a preliminary assessment. Prima facie, it seems the complaint is serious. The complaint is that the construction of a building was stopped in Khan’s constituency, a demand of Rs 6 lakh was made and the minister took the Rs 6 lakh. There is a liasion between the builder and minister and this clip involves him. These recordings are between one and two months… The complainant has requested that we hide his identity.”
Kejriwal said AAP took immediate action because its “voters may overlook anything but not corruption”.
”If our officer, minister, MLA or even my son or Manish is found involved in corruption, we will not spare anyone. And Manish will not spare me if I was found involved in corruption. This is the message we want to give to the entire administration,” he said.
”We are keeping tabs on everyone. We have our own system of keeping tabs on every one,” Kejriwal said.