NEW DELHI: Delhi Water Minister Kapil Mishra was axed from the Cabinet today, days after he sided with senior AAP leader Kumar Vishwas who has been at loggerheads with the party leadership.
His sacking also highlighted the simmering tension between the leadership and Vishwas, which could snowball into a major crisis for the poll-battered AAP.
The party also inducted two new faces -- Seemapuri MLA Rajendra Pal Gautam and Najafgarh legislator Kailash Gahlot taking the number of ministers in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Cabinet to seven.
Gautam will be a Dalit face in the Cabinet, while Gahlot gets representation from outer Delhi. However, they have not been alloted any portfolio yet.
A senior official said the decision to remove Mishra was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Mishra became the fourth AAP minister to be sacked after Jitendra Singh Tomar, Asim Ahmed Khan and Sandeep Kumar, since the AAP stormed to power in 2015.
Apart from the water department, Mishra also held tourism, art, culture and languages portfolios.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Mishra was replaced because there were complaints about inflated water bills of consumers and water was not reaching colonies where new lines had been laid.
Soon after the move, Mishra claimed he would "expose" the involvement of certain AAP leaders in an alleged scam in the supply of water tomorrow.
Mishra said he had met the chief minister earlier in the day and handed over documents related to the alleged scam.
"I was not informed of the decision and as per my knowledge, it was taken unilaterally by Kejriwal. The Cabinet or the Political Affairs Committee (the AAP's top decisionmaking body) was not involved," Mishra told PTI.
Sources close to the chief minister refuted Mishra's claims.
Mishra claimed he was the only minister in Delhi against whom there was no inquiry by the CBI.
"I have not given any benefit to my daughter or any of my relatives. I have exposed Sheila (Dixit's) corruption," Mishra tweeted, in an apparent jibe at Sisodia and Health Minister Satyendar Jain.
The CBI has registered preliminary enquiry against Sisodia in connection with alleged irregularities in social media campaign 'Talk to AK', while Jain faces allegation of nepotism for appointing his daughter as an adviser in his department.
Mishra had earlier said that alleged tampering of electronic voting machines are not the only reason for the party's defeat and there were other factors responsible for it.
The AAP leadership has been maintaining that "rigging" of EVMs have been a reason for the party's poor show in Punjab and rout in Delhi civic polls.
Mishra's sacking may lead to a major crisis in the AAP.
Following the development, Vishwas tweeted suggesting that he was prepared to slug it out.
"I wish to assure the country and volunteers that we will continue to raise voice against corruption within and outside, irrespective of the consequences. Bharat Mata ki Jai,"
Vishwas, who had also cited reasons other than tampering of EVMs for the party's defeat, tweeted.
"Let there be another movement. We will not wear out. Haven't tasted a drop of power until now, which is why the zeal from Jantar Mantar struggle still remains," he added, referring to the days of agitation by the India Against Corruption.
In the past one week, the party has witnessed events, nothing short of a drama.
On Sunday, AAP's Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan had accused Vishwas of being a "BJP-RSS agent" and planning a coup in the party.
Khan resigned from the party's PAC after Kejriwal expressed his displeasure over the matter.
He, however, continued his tirade against Vishwas, who threatened to quit if stern action was not taken against Khan.
Vishwas alleged that Khan was just a "mask" and "coterie" around Kejriwal which was hatching conspiracy against him.
Kejriwal and Sisodia had to visit the residence of Vishwas to pacify him.
The Okhla legislator was on Wednesday suspended from the party to placate Vishwas, but hours later Sisodia visited Khan at this residence.
However, on Friday, Khan was appointed the chairman of a panel of the Delhi Assembly and also a member in seven newly constituted committees.
All AAP legislators including Somnath Bharti, Alka Lamba and Bhavna Gaur, who had backed Vishwas, have been accommodated in the Library Committee, not considered as prestigious with the panel having little work to do.
Bharti, who had openly advocated a greater role for Vishwas in the party, was removed as the Chairman of the Privileges Committee and Gehlot was appointed in his place.