India's anti-corruption crusader faces bribery allegation

AP News
Posted: May 07, 2017 7:34 AM
India's anti-corruption crusader faces bribery allegation

NEW DELHI (AP) — Anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal's government in the Indian capital plunged into a crisis on Sunday as a minister he fired over the weekend accused him of accepting 20 million rupees ($300,000) in cash as a bribe.

There was no immediate comment from Kejriwal. His Aam Admi Party spokesman, Kumar Viswas, rejected the allegation by party lawmaker Kapil Mishra, describing it as an attack by rivals.

"We don't want to give any credence to such wild allegations," said Ashish Khaitan, another party leader.

Mishra told reporters that in his presence, Kejriwal accepted the cash from another colleague and minister, Satyendra Jain, at his New Delhi residence on Friday. He said that Jain later told him that the money was paid in connection with a land deal worth 500 million rupees ($760,000).

Mishra said he met Kejriwal on Saturday and asked him to explain the source of money to all party lawmakers but was fired. He said that Kejriwal told him that "such things happen in politics" and he would explain it later.

Mishra said he would meet officials of federal and state investigating agencies and seek a probe against Kejriwal and Jain.

Kejriwal's political rivals, Manoj Tiwari of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and Ajay Maken of the opposition Congress party, demanded his immediate resignation.

The BJP is in opposition in the state legislature.

Kejriwal launched the Aam Aadmi Party in 2012, and it won the Delhi state legislature election a year later, when he became the chief minister. Kejriwal, a 48-year-old former civil servant, campaigned to rid the Indian political system and governance of corruption and inefficiency.

The party's symbol — a broom— and its promise to sweep the administration of graft struck a chord with Delhi residents fed up with venal politicians, runaway inflation and slowing economic growth. The Congress party has been blamed for widespread corruption.

But he resigned as the chief minister 49 days later because his minority government couldn't enact an anti-corruption law due to a lack of support from other political parties.

He took over as the chief minister for a second five-year term in 2015 after his party's stunning victory in the state elections when it grabbed 67 of 70 seats.

However, his party seems to be losing the steam as it failed to win recent state legislature elections in northern Punjab state and western Goa state.