AAP leader Aashish Khetan loses cool, threatens journalists after exposé of AAP’s corruption

Yesterday, controversial journalist and now AAP leader, Aashish Khetan unleashed a set of tweets on journalists, full of anger and even a few threats. What prompted this reaction?

A website called FountainInk released a detailed investigative report on the functioning of AAP the party and its Government. The report revealed widespread corrupt practices, disappointed MLAs, malpractices to influence media and techniques used by the party to suppress negative information. Some of the key points were:

1. Delhi Government gave honorary positions to journalists at educational institutions by dissolving the governing bodies of 28 colleges despite opposition from the university. AAP nominated 25 journalists and some former journalists listed as “Educationists” to these bodies, making for more than 20 per cent of all nominations. At least four senior journalists in the Bennett Coleman group (which publishes The Times of India, The Economic Times and Navbharat Times)  had accepted the appointment but had to resign as such office goes against group policy.

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2. Party workers, businessmen who didn’t have a background in the education industry, were listed as “social workers”, some others were listed simply as “Professional” to draft them into above bodies. The posts play a pivotal role in the hiring process. These appointments are also the ones for which huge bribes are paid.

3. AAP has a list of digital marketing consultants and crores of rupees are paid for such consulatncy, to manipulate online news such that positive news is pushed up and negative news about AAP is suppressed. The report cites the example of the scam in which Minister Gopal Rai was caught renewing licences of only favoured autorickshaws, and how the stories were suppressed.

4. A tainted firm, which was rejected by other states and even the previous Delhi Government was given a contract for High Security Registration Plates. Officials who raised an alarm over past misconduct of the firm were threatened into silence and the firm got business from the Delhi government. In exchange AAP workers and MLAs were “enriched” by the said firm.

5. AAP has also started a lucrative “transfer-posting” industry where officials are either transferred to a particular post because of their ability to generate cash through various means, or because the officer coughs up enough money for party funds for a transfer to a particular department or for a promotion. The report also gives a detailed modus-operandi of the entire scheme.

6. In October 2015 AAP directed its MLAs in Delhi to contribute Rs 1 lakh each per month to fund its Punjab campaign. Later the party declared then that the plan had been shelved. Barely six months later, however, it has quietly passed on instructions to MLAs to deposit Rs 1.5 lakh every month towards the Punjab elections, according to several party workers and MLAs interviewed for the story. MLAs now claim that they cannot stay honest even if they want to, thanks to this demand.

The report further claims that multiple attempts to contact AAP spokespersons, Nagendra Sharma, media advisor to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, and leaders like Ashutosh and Aashish Khetan failed. They didn’t respond to calls on their mobile phones. An email questionnaire sent to Khetan went unanswered.

What sparked off Khetan’s outburst was the fact that another controversial journalist, Rana Ayyub had shared the story. Hartosh Singh Bal, another journalist also shared the story on Twitter. Mind you, this story was originally published by the site on 18th May, but somehow it landed up in the reading lists of both these journalists only almost 2 weeks later.

Khetan even went ahead and issued an open threat saying “One more trashy tweet & I will show what it takes to defend one’s honour”

He further went on to make personal attacks on the author of the story, who happened to be his ex co-worker:

The writer also responded on Twitter to Aashish Khetan:

Khetan also denied that he had ever been contacted by the author. In the heated exchange with Hartosh Singh Bal, Bal asked Khetan to clarify on some issues:

But when asked about specifics, Khetan did not answer:

The amusing thing in this entire incident is how people who were on the same side a few days ago have all changed stances. It was just on 30th May when AAP supremo Kejriwal had congratulated Rana Ayyub on her badly written book. The same content, which even the then Managing Editor of Tehelka Shoma Chaudhury, claimed “did not meet the necessary editorial standards”. Shoma had further said that “there were a lot of loopholes and serious concerns about the procedure that had been followed”.

Coming back to Kejriwal, here is AAP supporting Rana Ayyub a few days ago and then within a few days, Ayyub tweets out an anti-AAP story, to which she gets a threatening response from Aashish Khetan from AAP. Even Hartosh Singh Bal, who is a known Modi-hater was attacked by Khetan.

Does the key lie then in Khetan’s remark that Bal would get a reply only if Caravan (the publication he edits), sends a formal letter? Will we see a rebuttal of sorts in Caravan? Is this what one would call a “friendly-fight”? In fact even the original investigative report tells us that when AAP is hit with negative news, they create more negative news about their adversaries. Further, how does a story published on 18th May become a focal point almost 2 weeks later? So is this AAP playing by their own rule-book? Only time will tell.

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