A water tanker scam that remained one of Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s main battles against the previous Sheila Dikshit government turned up the heat within the party, with Water Resources Minister Kapil Mishra’s ouster from the cabinet Saturday evening.
Following hours of deliberations in the morning between Mishra and Kejriwal, and later among senior party functionaries at the AAP chief’s residence, Mishra’s ouster from the cabinet was announced by Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, citing “not up to the mark” performance.
Highly placed sources in the party told The Indian Express that the leadership learnt that Mishra had huddled with a few AAP MLAs, and was allegedly “planning to level allegations against Kejriwal” on the tanker scam.
“The party has learnt he was trying to reach out to MLAs and spread discontent. He was planning to level allegations against Kejriwal — that he or the party leadership did not want to pursue the water tanker scam. This does not behove a cabinet minister,” claimed a senior party functionary.
Trouble escalated between Mishra and the pro-Kejriwal faction after the water minister sided with upset party leader Kumar Vishwas earlier this week.
Mishra, who had been a Kejriwal confidant, had grown close to Vishwas over the last year owing to disagreements with Kejriwal’s political secretariat.
As the faultlines within the party became more pronounced, with Vishwas taking the differences with Kejriwal to the media, Mishra and at least three other AAP MLAs openly sided with the poet-turned-politician.
Sources close to Kejriwal said that Mishra, despite the resolution of differences between Vishwas and Kejriwal, stepped up the attack on the AAP chief.
‘Why is this happening?’
Mishra told The Indian Express, “I met Kejriwal this morning and had a detailed discussion about the water tanker scam. I have named people within the party. And it was after that meeting that I heard about my removal from the cabinet. So far, I have not received any official intimation. Why is this happening? I had told them (the party) that in my press conference tomorrow, I will name some people, which I will still do. I am not disappointed at being removed from the cabinet. I have been fighting against corruption since 2004 and was part of India Against Corruption. When you take on corruption, such things happen. It is fine… I am an integral part of AAP and the government. ”
He also tweeted: “I am the only minister with no corruption charges. No CBI enquiry against me. I have not given any post to my relative or daughter. I just shed light on corruption by Sheila (Dikshit).” In an earlier tweet, he had said that he would do an expose on the tanker scam on Sunday.
Another reason being cited for Mishra’s removal was complaints from MLAs about dirty water and erratic water supply during the MCD polls, which may have hurt the party’s prospects.
A senior party leader said, “Why did water supply become worse during polls? Why did people start getting water bills when a certain amount is free? These are not things that can be overlooked.”
Till now, there were six ministers in the Delhi cabinet, which can have a maximum of seven. These were Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Home Minister Satyendar Jain, Environment Minister Imran Hussain, Labour Minister Gopal Rai and Water Minister Mishra.
While Mishra was relieved of his duties, AAP MLAs Kailash Gahlot and Rajendra Pal Gautam are set to be inducted into the cabinet.
The two new cabinet faces
New Delhi: Najafgarh MLA Kailash Gahlot and Seemapuri MLA Rajendra Pal Gautam, set to become new ministers in the Delhi cabinet, are both Delhi University alumni. Gahlot has a Bachelor of Arts degree, while Gautam, an advocate, pursued law from DU. Both MLAs are facing an office of profit case.
Ever since Sandeep Kumar’s removal, the party has faced criticism for not having a Dalit in the cabinet. Gautam’s induction, sources said, is likely to fix that, and the leader is likely to get the social welfare department earlier held by Kumar. Gahlot’s induction, sources said, is to ensure outer Delhi gets a representation. He is likely to replace Mishra in the cabinet.