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Union Minister’s “No Vacancy” Jibe After Atishi Claims BJP Approached Her

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AAP leader Atishi is Delhi’s Public Works Department Minister (File).

New Delhi:

The Bharatiya Janata Party “does not have any vacancy”, Union Minister Hardeep Puri said Tuesday evening, hours after Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi claimed she had been approached with an offer to jump ship and “save my political career”. “…they threatened that if I don’t switch (then) the Enforcement Directorate will arrest me”, the senior AAP leader said this morning.

Mr Puri hit back with a reference to the alleged liquor policy scam that has shaken the AAP and the opposition INDIA bloc ahead of the Lok Sabha election. “At a time when the entire AAP is embroiled in the liquor scam, we will not create trouble for ourselves by accepting her in our party,” he said.

“We do not have any vacancy for a political activist like Atishi…” Mr Puri said.

The Urban Development Minister’s firm rejection came after Atishi said she had been tapped to swap the AAP for the BJP. She said she was told the saffron party had “made up its mind on crushing everyone (in the Aam Aadmi Party)”.

READ | Atishi Claims BJP Offer, Says 4 AAP Leaders To Be Arrested Soon

“First, they put everyone in AAP’s leadership in jail… Satyendra Jain, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, and now Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. BJP’s plan is to arrest four more AAP leaders in the next two months. They will arrest me, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Durgesh Pathak and Raghav Chadha,” she said.

Tension between the AAP and the BJP have ramped up over the past few months, and particularly after central probe agencies began investigating the alleged Delhi liquor excise policy scam. Ex- Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was arrested in February last year and remains in jail.

Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh was arrested in October on money laundering charges related to the alleged scam. Mr Singh was released on bail earlier today, after six months in jail without a trial.

READ | Sanjay Singh Gets Bail After 6 Months In Jail In Liquor Policy Case

Delhi’s former Health Minister, Satyendar Jain, has also been arrested, albeit in a different case.

The biggest arrest, though, was on March 21; Chief Minister Kejriwal, described by the ED as the “kingpin”, was taken into custody after the Delhi High Court refused protection from arrest.

The AAP has accused the BJP of playing foul – by using central agencies like the ED to file fake corruption cases and harass opposition leaders ahead of the election, which begins April 19.

The BJP has rubbished the claims, insisting the ED and other agencies, including income tax officials, are acting independently and in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crackdown on corruption.

Atishi has been at the forefront of the AAP’s fight back since Arvind Kejriwal – whom the ED has labelled the “kingpin” in the alleged liquor policy scam – was arrested.

READ | Kejriwal Lodged In 14×8 Feet Cell. See What All Court Has Allowed

The BJP, she said, thought the AAP would splinter after Mr Kejriwal’s arrest. “But after the rally on Sunday (at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan), BJP thinks arrest of four leaders was not enough,” she said.

She declared she had insider information the ED could raid her home and those of her relatives before arresting her, but declared, “We are Kejriwal’s soldiers,… won’t be cowed by BJP’s threats.”

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