Kejriwal seeks DCW chief's ouster for questioning 'vigilante' minister

Indicating that Arvind Kejriwal's Delhi government continues to back its controversial law minister Somnath Bharti, the Aam Admi Party on Wednesday took steps to replace the head of the Delhi Commission for Women Barkha Singh with Hindi novelist Maitreyi Pushpa.

The move is seen as a direct fallout of the Bharti-led 'vigilante' raid on the residence of some five Nigerian women, who were accused of running a drug and prostitution ring. Their room was raided by a bunch of goons led by Bharti, and some of them were forced to take drug tests which proved them innocent. All the women have filed police complaints, some naming Bharti.

Singh said she is being targeted for summoning Bharti for questioning over the episode, complaints of which had reached the commission.

The government proposal to Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to remove Singh, a former Congress MLA who lost her assembly seat in the December state assembly elections, came five days after she had a public spat with Bharti's lawyers when she refused to allow them to depose before the DCW on the law minister's behalf and insisted on his appearance in person.

Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia said at a press conference that the government has proposed the name of "non-political" Maitreyi Pushpa to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. He said Barkha Singh should have resigned before the new government was formed.

Chief minister Kejriwal added, "All these years the DCW chairman used to be a political person, but now we want to change that. Pushpa is good novelist and literature expert."

Reacting to government's move to remove her, Singh said she held a constitutional post and government was targeting her for initiating proceedings against Bharti.

"I still have one year and four months left in my tenure. The AAP government is harassing me and targeting me because I summoned Bharti in connection with the ill-treatment of Ugandan women during the midnight raid in Khirki Extension," she said.

Earlier this month, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Arvinder Singh Lovely had asked all partymen to quit various posts in government-run boards and commissions following "tradition and convention".

The 69-year-old Maitreyi Pushpa is a Hindi fiction writer who has penned 10 novels and seven short story collections – though their popularity of literary merit remains uncertain.

"Those Ugandan women had come to me with their complaints and I did my duty. If they are removing me because I summoned the law minister, then it is totally wrong. It is an atrocity on me," Barkha said.

By late evening, the name and picture of Singh had been removed from the commission's website. Official sources, however, said the Lt Governor was yet to take a decision on the removal of Singh.