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Somnath Bharti attacks media, retracts


New Delhi, Jan 25 :

Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti Saturday found himself embroiled in yet another controversy for alleging that media was paid by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Under intense criticism, he later retracted his statement, but the opposition demanded his resignation.

Somnath Bharti, Law Minister, Delhi
Somnath Bharti

As reporters wanted to speak to the minister about his controversial action described by many as vigilante-like raid, Bharti retorted: “How much have you been paid by Modiji?.”

But minutes later after he faced flak for his remark, he withdrew the statement and apologised.

“I did not mean that. I apologise if the remarks have hurt anyone,” Bharti said.

Asked about the remark, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal acknowledged Bharti’s mistake. But he also asked the media “not to hound him” and assured that the minister would “think before speaking in future”.

However the damage had been done by then as the opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded Bharti’s immediate resignation.

“The law minister has been violating all laws and has now insulted the media as well,” said Delhi BJP leader Harsh Vardhan, who was also the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

“This is a sign of intellectual bankruptcy. He should resign immediately,” he said.

BJP’s state unit president, Vijay Goel, also condemned the remark.

“It shows the true colour of AAP – intolerance, misinformation and arrogance,” he added.

Goel also slammed Kejriwal, who in his address on the eve of Republic Day, hit out at some media houses, without naming them, of portraying the party negatively.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh demanded that Bharti reveal the names of those who were receiving money from Modi.

“He should not level such allegations without any proof,” he said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury blamed Bharti’s outburst as a result of the media not showing what the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wanted.

“When the media was showing what they (AAP) wanted it was good, but now the media has become bad. Questions are rightly being raised against the law minister and he should answer them instead of making allegations against others,” Yechury said.

Bharti found himself in the eye of the storm following the Jan 15 midnight action against an alleged “sex-and-drugs ring” in south Delhi that targeted Ugandan and Nigerian women. Five of whom have accused a mob led by Bharti of misbehaviour and harassment.

Kejriwal has defended his action.

Bharti was summoned by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) but failed to appear before the panel Friday. He sent a lawyer to represent him instead who ended up having a fierce argument with the DCW members. The commission refused to allow his lawyer to represent Bharti, saying it was against the rules.

It further said that the matter would be reported to Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung.

But the law minister accused the panel of being “politically motivated” and conspiring to “defame” him.

Speaking to media persons a day after, Bharti said: “Barkha Singh (of the DCW) is a member of the Congress and acting against me for a political motive. All allegations against me are false. It’s a conspiracy to defame me.”

But Barkha Singh rebuffed the allegations.

“There was no politics involved in the move against Bharti. It is a routine probe,” she said, adding: “The kind of blame he is putting on the women’s commission shows that he knows he is guilty.”

The National Commission for Women (NCW) too came to the rescue of DCW and warned Bharti against dragging the commission into the matter.

“It is his political fight, he cannot drag the commission (into this) for political motives,” NCW member Nirmala Samant Prabhawalkar said, adding that it was inappropriate for the minister to challenge a constitutionally appointed body.