AAP in a dock after Punjab MLA arrested on alleged bribery charges

AAP MLA Kotfatta’s arrest comes days after his alleged close aide Rashim Garg was nabbed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in the same case

February 23, 2023 08:33 am | Updated 08:15 pm IST - Chandigarh

A view the Aam Aadmi Party headquarters in New Delhi. Photo used for representational purpose only.

A view the Aam Aadmi Party headquarters in New Delhi. Photo used for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Amit Rattan Kotfatta from Punjab’s Bathinda (Rural) Assembly segment was arrested by Vigilance Bureau in an alleged bribery case, putting the ruling AAP government in Punjab in a dock as the Opposition cornered the government on Thursday.

Soon after the arrest, the Opposition parties attacked the AAP surrounding the ‘corruption’ issue, even as Chef Minister Bhagwant Mann attempted to downplay the matter, saying the law is equal for all and bribery will not be accepted by anyone, in an apparent reference to the accused MLA.

The Opposition parties said that it was the consistent pressure from several quarters that forced the arrest of the AAP MLA, who should ideally have been nabbed the same day when his close aide was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau in the bribery case.

Former Punjab deputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the action was “too little, too late.” He said the accused MLA should have been arrested immediately after the Vigilance Bureau sleuths caught him accepting a bribe last week. He added that the AAP has not sacked Mr. Rattan or other party leaders like Vijay Singla and Fauja Singh Sarari, who have been embroiled in corruption cases. The Shiromani Akali Dal demands all of them be disqualified from the State Assembly, he said.

Hitting out at the AAP, Punjab’s leader of Opposition Partap Bajwa said “with arrest of corrupt AAP MLA Amit Rattan Kotfatta stand of our party has been vindicated. This is the third AAP MLA in less than a year who has been charged with corruption charges. Is this the Badlav (change) Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and party’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal promised to the people of Punjab?”

Bhagwant Mann’s reaction

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said the government was adopting zero tolerance’ corruption. In a tweet, he said that bribery by anyone, in any way shall not be tolerated. Mr. Mann added that there is no mercy on those who eat people’s tax money. The law, he said, is equal for all.

The AAP MLA was arrested on Thursday early morning in the bribery case, days after his alleged close aide Rashim Garg was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau in the same case. On February 16, Mr. Garg was arrested red-handed accepting a bribe of ₹4 lakhs. He was arrested on a complaint by the husband of sarpanch of Ghuda village, alleging that the accused was demanding a bribe of ₹5 lakhs from her wife in lieu of releasing a government grant of ₹25 lakh.

Interestingly, when Mr. Garg was arrested from the Bathinda circuit house the AAP MLA Amit Rattan was also present at the circuit house, even as Mr. Rattan continued to deny that Mr. Garg was his personal assistant and asserted that he had nothing to do with the case of corruption.

The complainant though alleged that in the circuit house, he met Mr. Rattan and informed him that he had brought the money, after which the MLA instructed him to give the money to Mr. Garg. An audio recording was also submitted by the complainant surrounding the talk purportedly related to bribery.

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