NEW DELHI: The Aam Aadmi Party, already battling controversies over its funding, found itself in another embarrassing spot on Thursday. A sting operation by a web portal on eight AAP candidates and one member, including well-known faces like Shazia Ilmi and Kumar Vishwas, allegedly found some of them willing to take donations in cash without a receipt and get work done in return for funds.
AAP’s political affairs committee went into a huddle around 5pm, after the ‘sting’ appeared on TV, emerged around 9pm to announce that they would decide on a course of action within 24 hours.
“We have asked the web agency to submit raw footage to us so that we can study it and decide if the members concerned are actually guilty. We have spoken to all of them and they have a different version of the story to tell. We are very clear on one matter. If anyone is found guilty, they will not contest,” said senior AAP member Yogendra Yadav.
“We also believe that more such allegations may be in the offing,” he added.
Other AAP candidates who featured in the sting were Manoj Kumar from Kondli, Dinesh Mohaniya from Sangam Vihar, Irfan Khan from Okhla, Mukesh Hooda from Rohtas Nagar, Bhawna Gaur from Palam and Prakash from Deoli.
Of these, Gaur is seen not committing to any help and seems in a hurry to get rid of the sting team. Prakash too refuses to grant favours to the undercover journalist and adds that any question regarding donations should only be posed to party convenor Arvind Kejriwal, since all candidates fielded by the party are only “dummy candidates”.
“You better speak to Arvind ji. He will tell you what we want. He has fielded 70 candidates, all are dummy (sab dummy hein). I will not be able to take any decision,” Gaur is seen saying on tape.
Party national secretary Sanjay Singh, who along with Yadav will investigate the matter from the party’s side, said AAP did not want blame anyone for conspiring against it. “It is true that some people have been staging a sustained campaign against us but it does not matter whether BJP, Congress or anyone else is behind this sting. If what has been portrayed is true, it is of concern to the party,” he said.
The footage released by web portal mediasarkar.com, the authenticity of which TOI cannot confirm, shows AAP’s R K Puram candidate Shazia Ilmi first refusing to help a woman in defaming a rival company without legal documents. Later, she is shown agreeing to accept Rs 15 lakh in cash without a receipt and tells the undercover journalist how the money will not be accounted for and used for cash expenditure like volunteer stipends. Her assistant also reveals how they have accepted similar donations from several other people which are used for media campaigns and daily expenditure.
The party is being slapped with one charge after another over the past couple of weeks. After Anna Hazare raised doubts over diversion of funds from the Jan Lokpal movement to AAP, Kejriwal got slapped with a notice by the election commission for asking for votes on religious grounds.
Even as the party was been targeted on its alleged foreign funding, another charge cropped up against Kejriwal — that of selling a seat. Amrish Chaudhury, shortlisted for the Badarpur seat, accused Kejriwal of eventually selling the seat for Rs 2 crore to the selected candidate. AAP said the charges were completely fabricated.