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Somnath Bharti: The headache AAP didn’t need

Leaders have publicly said that this is a domestic dispute that Somnath Bharti must get himself out of.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | New Delhi | Updated: October 7, 2016 5:03:07 pm
somnath bharti, AAP, aam aadmi party, somnath bharti wife, somnath bharti bail, somnath bharti arrest, aam aadmi party, arvind kejriwal, jitender tomar Former Delhi law minister and AAP MLA Somnath Bharti.

With the Delhi High Court rejecting his anticipatory bail plea, former law minister Somnath Bharti, is all over the news. Again. By now, even his own Aam Aadmi Party will be sick of the unwanted attention.

It was just a few months ago, that amidst a wave of optimism and an anger against the traditional political class, the AAP swept to power in Delhi with an absolutely unprecedented 67 out of 70 seats. Since then, even as the state government attempts to reinforce the work they are doing, much of the debate in the capital has come to revolve around several controversies that have dogged the Kejriwal sarkaar.

While the party and the state government often point to a deliberate campaign to destabilise the government — even a few in the AAP agree that some of this is unavoidable but is robbing this government of the “feel good” factor it had earned for itself in the aftermath of its massive electoral win.

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Take for instance, the case of Jitendra Tomar, law minister in this government before being dropped in the midst of a massive controversy over fake educational certificates. For the party, the case was an eye opener, as they first backed him to the hilt publicly, and then hastily backtracked given the evidence the police seemed to have gathered against him. AAP put forth the argument that they had been misled by Tomar but there was no doubt that the party came out looking the worse for the wear.

Almost incessantly, the state government has been at loggerheads with the Centre and the Delhi Police, which senior leaders are often unabashed about, arguing that they are “fighting against interference in the state’s work.” However, if they need public opinion on their side to win that debate, other controversies have chipped away at the optimism.

Their youth wing of the party, the CYSS recently fought the Delhi University Students’ Union elections but failed to win a seat despite heavyweight support from AAP.

With the outbreak of dengue in the city at its worst in several years, the state government almost inevitably is also perceived to be part of the problem.

So this Somnath Bharti affair comes at exactly the wrong time when the party and the government are doing their best to prove they are proactive administrators in the face of a crisis. The AAP has kept a safe distance from its MLA, given the embarrassment it faced when Tomar was arrested by the Delhi Police. Leaders have publicly said that this is a domestic dispute that Bharti must get himself out of. Privately, many are angry with his disappearing act, and have urged him to cooperate with the police.

The party can ill afford another unseemly controversy.

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