New Delhi: The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday removed Alka Lamba, a member of the Delhi legislative assembly, as party spokesperson in the middle of what has been a politically difficult week for the state government.
Lamba’s removal comes a day after she told reporters that former transport minister Gopal Rai was asked to step down from the department as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal wanted to ensure a fair probe into allegations of corruption.
The week began on a tumultuous note for the Delhi government with President Pranab Mukherjee refusing to give his assent to an amendment bill to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997. The government is seeking to appoint 21 AAP legislators as parliamentary secretaries.
On Tuesday, Rai stepped down as transport minister. While he cited “health reasons", his resignation comes in the backdrop of a probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into graft charges linked to a proposal for the launch of a premium, app-based bus service.
Rai has denied all charges and continues to hold five other portfolios—employment, development, labour, general administration, and irrigation and flood control. The transport portfolio has now been given to his cabinet colleague, Satyendar Jain.
Defending his stance Rai said he “voluntarily" presented himself before ACB and claimed the probe agency was “totally clueless" about how to substantiate the graft charges.
Lamba on Thursday took to Twitter and said: “I am a disciplined worker of the party and respect every decision of the party. If unknowingly I have made a mistake, I will repent it, so that there is no damage to the party’s fight against corruption."
This is not the first time Lamba has landed in trouble since AAP’s election victory in 2015. Last year, she was accused of vandalizing a shop during an anti-corruption drive in central Delhi. In May, she was granted bail. Lamba, a former Congress member, joined AAP in 2013.
A senior party leader who did not want to be quoted said Lamba has been repeatedly warned not to speak out of the party line. “This is a case of indiscipline and so action is taken. Party had talked to her in the past also, and leaders felt disciplinary action needs to be taken on something as sensitive as this,’’ the leader added.
The fate of 21 party MLAs appointed as parliamentary secretaries is in limbo after a bill shielding them from disqualification was returned by the President on Monday. The matter is currently under the Election Commission’s consideration but no decision has been taken yet.
Lamba is one of the 21 MLAs.
On Wednesday, chief minister Kejriwal attacked both the main opposition parties—the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party—for appointing MLAs as parliamentary secretaries during their terms in power in Delhi.
Analysts said such moves weaken the image of the party.
“She (Alka Lamba) is a very vocal person and such an incident is likely to happen. Examples like these show the weakening of a party. If the party is controlled by an individual, then it is guided by the individual. Individual-centric parties have a tendency of becoming dictatorial. It has happened to other parties in the past," said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a political analyst and political science professor at Delhi University.
PTI contributed to this story.