AAP continues to defend 'vigilante' minister amid scorn, plaint by hurt lady

Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Admi Party, now ruling Delhi state, today continued to defend its controversial law minister Somnath Bharti amid demands for his removal after he led a vigilante-style midnight raid on a flat occupied by Ugandan women, accusing them of running a drugs-and-prostitution ring.

The women, forcibly sent to a hospital for drug tests, were medically proved to be innocent, and the fledgling government has since been fending off flack for ''racial profiling'' as well as illegal actions.

Even as another of the targeted women filed a complaint against the action at the Khirki Extension in South Delhi on Thursday, senior  AAP leader Yogendra Yadav claimed today that Bharti had sought action against the women on the basis of "some evidence", and the party's only mistake was failure to ''cobble together'' the evidence.

"I saw the evidence myself ... the mistake was that we should have cobbled together all the evidence and put it in public domain and let the public view it. I think we allowed the mistaken impression to persist for 4-5 days, which was an error," he said in a TV interview.

Asked if Bharti would have been exonerated had the evidence been put out, Yadav quibbled, saying, "Not exonerated. Prima facie actually there is no evidence for all the things that are being put out (against Bharti)."

He denied that the party was using double standards by defending Bharti while Kejriwal and half his ministers sat in a street protest demanding suspension of the police personnel who refused to cooperate in the vigilante action.

Three of the four Ugandan ladies whose flat was targeted have identified Bharti as the person who led a group of AAP workers in attacking their house and misbehaving with them in the incident on 15-16 January.

The latest complainant on Thursday did not name Bharti, but her advocate Rakesh Sherawat told the court that his client – who had come to India for medical treatment – learnt through the media that the assailants were from the AAP, led by their local legislator (Bharti).

She complained that more than 10 men threatened her, carrying wooden sticks, and told her that if the door was not opened to them, she would be shot. The mob referred to her as a ''bad person'' and made many objectionable comments, she said.

The complainant said that she later recognised on TV some of the people in the mob, who had trespassed, and assaulted, misbehaved, threatened and molested her. Requesting the court to take necessary action against the accused, she said she could identify some of the men who were part of the mob.

Yadav said when asked why Bharti should not be removed when the African women have given statements before a magistrate against him, "The concerns of women should be taken care of .... in this instance, there is one version given by the African women while there is another version given by the locals.''

Ironically Kejriwal, during his unprecedented protest in the heart of Delhi, kept harping on his party's concern for women throughout his action.

On the availability of CCTV cameras showing evidence against Bharti, he said, "I want to see the footage that shows him indulging in racism or abusing those women."

Asked if the last week was a bad one for his party in the wake of the dharna staged by it near the Raisina Hills, Yadav said, "It has been difficult because when in government, you have to manage multiple perceptions, the perception of ordinary people, the perception of discerning people and the perception of people watching from a distance."

Yadav was on the defensive when asked about Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's threat to 'disrupt' the Republic Day celebrations by flooding Rajpath with lakhs of people.

He said the Delhi Chief Minister had questioned the way the Republic Day was celebrated and felt that it was a bit outdated to have a "Soviet-style" parade.