Mann's AAP govt on back foot ahead of Jalandhar bypoll

A cabinet minister in the Mann govt has been accused of sexual misconduct
Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann. (Photo | Bhagwant Mann Twitter)
Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann. (Photo | Bhagwant Mann Twitter)

CHANDIGARH:  Days ahead of the by-election for the Jalandhar parliamentary seat, a cabinet minister in the Mann-led AAP government in Punjab has been accused of sexual misconduct. A few months ago, one minister was dropped on alleged charges of corruption, and another minister had to resign after his name surfaced in an extortion scandal.

Without naming anyone, Congress MLA from Bholath and chairman of the All India Kisan Congress Sukhpal Singh Khaira met the Punjab Governor, Banwarilal Purohit on Monday and accused a Punjab cabinet minister of sexual misconduct and handed over two purported and objectionable video clippings of the misconduct, demanding the expulsion of the minister if the videos were found genuine. He has also sought the videos’ forensic verification.

Khaira said Purohit has assured him that he would look into the matter. However, Khaira refused to release the video clippings or name the minister. Sources said the two video clips, one of three minutes and the other of eight minutes, have been sent to the DGP of Chandigarh by the Punjab Raj Bhawan for verifying their authenticity.

BJP leader and AAP baiter Manjinder Singh Sirsa announced that the “Punjab CM would be forced to dismiss the minister… Another AAP wicket to fall in Punjab”, he tweeted. In another complaint to the Governor, Khaira accused State Food and Supply Minister Lal Chand Kataruchak of gross misuse of his official position by appointing his son Robin Singh as his phone assistant, his sister-in-law’s son Vikas Deviyal as his special assistant and Sahil Saini (his close political aide) his cook. However, Kataruchak dismissed the allegation. 

“Khaira’s allegations that I have appointed my relatives at some positions on my staff are totally baseless. I have not done anything that is illegal or unconstitutional. For the past year, my telephone attendant is Sandeep Kumar from Sarna and my cook is Lekh Ram Sunar from Dinanagar.’’

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Tuesday  maintained that “no video clippings have reached us.’’ He said that Khaira was in the habit of making baseless allegations to remain in the limelight and draw political mileage. “His allegation against Kataruchak about the employment of his relatives in his office staff is also baseless.

Khaira should tell the media if Kataruchak has indulged in any impropriety and why he was fielded as a candidate in the 2019 parliamentary elections,’’ said Mann. “They are jittery about the Jalandhar by-poll as they don’t have any issues to highlight.’’

Two Punjab ministers in the past had to step down on charges of corruption and extortion. Last year in May, the then health minister Vijay Singla resigned as he was arrested by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on charges of corruption. But he was released soon. 

MLA’s second complaint

In another complaint to the Governor, Cong MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira accused state food and supply minister Lal Chand Kataruchak of gross misuse of his official position by appointing his relatives at various positions in his staff. However, Kataruchak has rejected the allegation.

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