Sex scandal: AAP's woes before polls

Sex scandal: AAP's woes before polls

An Aam Aadmi Party MLA was recently sentenced to jail for 18 months for causing death due to negligence in a 2009 case involving faulty machinery at his factory. The sentencing of Adarsh Nagar MLA Pawan Sharma didn’t excite the media too much as it was chewing on a far juicier story at that time: Delhi’s Women and Child Development Minister Sandeep Kumar had just been sacked over a sex tape. To be fair, when AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal gave Kumar a berth in his Cabinet, he couldn’t have predicted that the minister would embarrass the party just months later. In contrast, the Pawan Sharma case is a more telling commentary on the way Kejriwal’s party picked its candidates in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls. Most parties don’t fret much over pending criminal cases when they pick candidates, but the AAP was supposed to be different, right? It boasted about the thorough scrutiny ticket aspirants went through. Yet, the party picked a man who was fighting a criminal case in court even then.

Unfortunately, Kumar and Sharma are not the only ones in the dock. In the mere 18 months that the party has been in power, Kejriwal has had to sack three Cabinet colleagues. Altogether, some 12 of the 67 AAP MLAs have faced arrest. It may well turn out that at least some of them were unfairly charged. But Kejriwal can’t get away by sweepingly blaming it all on Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung and the Delhi Police.

That finger-pointing was actually missing in the Kumar affair. Though the opposition says that Kejriwal sat on the CD for days, his camp insists that Kumar was sacked within 30 minutes of its surfacing. It can even be argued that the chief minister acted in haste. In his web column, Kejriwal’s lieutenant Ashutosh defended the sacked minister, saying the sex in the CD was after all a private, consensual act. The story, however, took a turn when Kumar was arrested for rape with a woman in the tape going to the police. Kejriwal can pat himself on the back for acting in time – unlike in the case of Jogender Tomar, the minister with a reportedly fake law degree, whom he initially defended so vigorously. Kumar has even been suspended from the party, a fate other AAP MLAs accused of crimes like corruption and sexual harassment have been spared. Just months before the Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, Kejriwal didn’t want to be on the wrong side in the perception war when an AAP MLA is caught with his pants down. This time, literally.

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