In an unprecedented move, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann today sacked his Health Minister Vijay Singla from the cabinet on a corruption charge reportedly after solid evidence was found against him. Mr Singla was allegedly demanding a one per cent commission on tenders. Soon after his removal, he was arrested by the anti-corruption branch of the Punjab police and sent to three-day police remand.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann took the step after he received a complaint against the Minister just 10 days back. This is only the second time in the country's history that a Chief Minister has taken such strict action against their own cabinet colleague. Earlier, Aam Aadmi Party convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had in 2015 sacked one of his ministers on corruption charges.
A government official had 10 days ago complained to the Chief Minister's office about corruption by Mr Singla. The Chief Minister personally assured the official that he would stand with him and he need not fear any minister. An operation was then executed with help from the official which clearly revealed that the minister and those close to him were demanding a one per cent commission. After call recordings and other evidence were collected, Mr Mann took action and also warned officials that corruption will not be tolerated.
Chief Minister Mann himself announced Mr Singla's removal from the cabinet which was sworn in just two months ago after the Aam Aadmi Party swept the state elections, on the agenda of corruption-free governance, and other poll promises.
"All of us are soldiers of Arvind Kejriwal who took an oath that he will root out corruption. There's no room for even one per cent corruption," Mr Mann said.
"Not even one per cent corruption will be tolerated," Mr Mann said in a video message. "The people have voted for an AAP government with a lot of hope, we have to live up to it. As long as mother India has a son like Arvind Kejriwal and a soldier like Bhagwant Mann, the great war against corruption will continue," he added. He further claimed that Mr Singla had admitted to wrongdoings.
The party said the big decision was taken in accordance with Arvind Kejriwal's anti-corruption model.
Mr Kejriwal praised Bhagwant Mann for the decision. "Proud of you Bhagwant. Ur action has brought tears to my eyes. Whole nation today feels proud of AAP," he tweeted.
Proud of you Bhagwant. Ur action has brought tears to my eyes.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) May 24, 2022
Whole nation today feels proud of AAP https://t.co/glg6LxXqgs
The police have been directed to register a case against Mr Singla.
AAP MP Raghav Chadha lauded the decision, claiming that his party is the only one with the integrity and courage to take action against its own leaders.
Aam Aadmi Party is the only party that has the integrity, courage & uprightness to take action against their own on grounds of corruption.— Raghav Chadha (@raghav_chadha) May 24, 2022
We saw it in Delhi, now we are witnessing it in Punjab.
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR CORRUPTION.
Commendable decision by CM @BhagwantMann
Mr Singla's Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Pardeep Kumar was also arrested, and both were presented before the court of Ravtesh Inderjit Singh in Mohali under heavy security, which sent them to three-day police remand.
When he was being taken out of the court, a battery of reporters asked Mr Singla about the allegations against him. "It is a conspiracy and an attempt to defame the party," he told them.
A dental surgeon, Mr Singla was elected to the assembly from the Mansa seat, defeating Punjabi singer and Congress candidate Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, also known as Sidhu Moosewala.