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Arvind gets party to stand by Bharti

New Delhi, Jan. 23: The Aam Aadmi Party today took the cue from chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and dismissed the calls for law minister Somnath Bharti’s resignation, deciding there was no “prima facie” evidence to suggest he had done any wrong.

The party’s political affairs committee, its highest decision-making body, made up its mind after a two-hour meeting where the law minister presented his defence.

Bharti had been accused of racism and sexism after leading a mob raid on January 15 night against Ugandan and Nigerian women for their alleged involvement in a drug-and-sex racket in Delhi’s Khirke Extension.

“We have examined all the evidence and found that, prima facie, there was nothing to suggest that Somnath Bharti exceeded his limits, misbehaved with women or engaged in racism,” chief party spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said.

He, however, added that the party would wait for the findings of the judicial inquiry instituted by the lieutenant governor and take “appropriate action” if Bharti was found guilty.

Many in the Aam Aadmi Party had been worried that the controversy would tarnish the image of the “party with a difference”, but sources said Kejriwal got everyone to toe his line. Some party leaders privately acknowledged that they had wanted Bharti to step down.

Yadav praised Bharti for responding to the call of his constituents from Khirke Extension who had made the allegations against the African nationals.

“The minister did not indulge in any corruption or misconduct,” he said, urging the media and civil society to look into the residents’ complaints about a drug-and-prostitution racket.

But Yadav added: “The party reprimanded Somnath Bharti for using uncivilised language against political opponents and asked him to use restraint in the future. The party also expresses regret to Arun Jaitley and Harish Salve.”

While criticising BJP leader Jaitley and senior lawyer Salve, Bharti had said that people should spit on them for backing foreigners involved in a drug-and-sex racket.

Yadav’s argument against the demand for Bharti’s resignation was that the minister was not in a position to tamper with evidence unlike the police officers whom Kejriwal wanted suspended. Bharti did not attend his office today.

Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely met the lieutenant governor, Najeeb Jung, demanding Bharti’s immediate arrest since some of the African women have named him in the FIR.

“Why should there be special treatment for Somnath Bharti? If there is an FIR against him, the police should act on it immediately,” Lovely said after meeting Jung.

The Delhi BJP too plans a protest tomorrow demanding Bharti’s resignation. A BJP team met the Delhi police commissioner to press for Bharti’s arrest.