Delhi Minister Raaj Kumar Anand has resigned from both his post and the Aam Aadmi Party

New Delhi:

Delhi Minister Raaj Kumar Anand has resigned from both his post and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over what he called was the party’s downfall from an anti-corruption group to a party “that’s involved in corruption”, a clear reference to the Delhi liquor policy case and the arrest of key leaders including AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his former deputy Manish Sisodia.

Soon after Mr Anand made the huge announcement, AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj in a press conference alleged Mr Anand was made to quit “under pressure” by the BJP.

Mr Anand, however, did not indicate or allude to coming under pressure as alleged by Mr Bharadwaj.

“I joined AAP after seeing its strong message on fighting corruption. Today, the party has found itself in the middle of corrupt practices. That’s why I have decided to quit,” said Mr Anand, who was the social welfare, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes minister.

“Today, I am very sad, so I have come to share my sorrow. I came into politics when Arvind Kejriwal had said that rajniti badlegi toh desh badlega (if politics changes, the country will change). Rajniti toh nahi badli, lekin rajneta badal gaye (politics has not changed, but politicians have),” Mr Anand said.

Mr Anand, the MLA from Patel Nagar, is the first Delhi government minister to quit from his post and the AAP as a direct result of the arrest of Mr Kejriwal and the entire liquor policy case.

He also alleged the AAP of discriminatory practices in staffing leadership positions in the party.

“There is no Dalit MLA or councillor in the Aam Aadmi Party. Dalit leaders are not even appointed to leadership positions. I follow the principles of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. If I cannot work for Dalits, then there is no point in being in the party,” Mr Anand told reporters in Delhi.

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Mr Anand’s house was searched by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a customs-linked money laundering case in November 2023. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in a complaint to a local court had alleged false declarations in imports for customs evasions of over Rs 7 crore. The ED then filed a complaint against Mr Anand.

With the Chief Minister in jail, it is unclear how the vacant portfolio will be assigned.

Delhi Minister Atishi is one of the key AAP leaders who is carrying on Mr Kejriwal’s battle while he is in jail. Atishi last week alleged the BJP is using pressure tactics to force AAP leaders to join the BJP, a comment that drew a defamation notice against her.

“The BJP has approached me through someone very close. They have asked me to join the BJP and said this will save my political career. They have threatened that if I don’t switch over, ED will arrest me within a month,” Atishi had said, after which the Delhi BJP unit sent her a defamation notice.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected Mr Kejriwal’s challenge to his March 21 arrest in the liquor policy case.

The ED has alleged Mr Kejriwal and two of his colleagues, including Mr Sisodia, allegedly took kickbacks while framing the now-scrapped liquor policy.

The ED alleged the policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of nearly 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers. Of the latter, six per cent was to be recovered by the AAP as bribes, which amounted to over Rs 600 crore, the ED alleged. This was then allegedly used as poll expenses.

Mr Kejriwal and the AAP have repeatedly denied all the allegations. They have claimed a political conspiracy against the Chief Minister, who is a high-profile member of the Opposition bloc INDIA.