BJP is set to suspend party MP Kirti Azad, who has targeted Finance Minister for corruption

New Delhi: The BJP is set to suspend party MP Kirti Azad, who has targeted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley by alleging serious financial irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) under his watch, after the winter session of Parliament concludes Wednesday, highly placed sources told The Indian Express Monday.

As Jaitley filed defamation cases against AAP leaders, Kirti took to Twitter, daring the Minister to sue him as well: “hello dear @arunjaitley hampar defemation file kar rahe ho na? Please karo na Don’t take injunction, don’t gag freedom of speech… Mera naam kyon hata diya @arunjaitley #Aap ne toh mere letters dikhae theey, mujhpar karo na case, registered post se maine bheje theey.”

Sources said the action Shah backs Jaitley: bid to defame him won’t succeed against Azad, a former India cricketer and BJP MP from Darbhanga, is also aimed at addressing the “growing perception” that Jaitley has been left to fend for himself on the DDCA issue without any “active support” from the party.

For four days after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his colleagues went all out against Jaitley, the only Cabinet member to come out in his support was HRD Minister Smriti Irani. Those close to Jaitley pointed out that some of his Cabinet colleagues are yet to openly speak in his defence.

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On Monday, BJP chief Amit Shah issued a statement in support of Jaitley, describing the allegations against him as “baseless and far from truth”.

“This is a conspiracy to defame Jaitley… BJP stands united with him and will not let any conspiracy to defame him succeed,” he said.

“Jaitley’s entire public life is like an open book and dedicated to the country and levelling such allegations against him are beyond comprehension as the SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigation Office) had already ruled out his involvement in day-to-day functioning of the DDCA,” he said.

“The AAP constituted an inquiry panel today to probe the alleged DDCA controversy and has called a special session of the Assembly tomorrow on this issue. How the DDCA comes under the purview of such an inquiry is in itself a legal matter. The AAP has undertaken this exercise to divert attention from the criminal cases filed against its leaders by Jaitley,” Shah said.

While the party is set to act against Azad, there is some disquiet within. What worries a section is that any disciplinary action against Azad could impact the party image since he has been repeatedly underlining that his fight is against corruption, not against any leader. “When he keeps reminding the party that he is just following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to fight corruption, the party gets disarmed,” a BJP MP said. This section believes the party cannot be blind to charges raised by Azad and others at a time when the BJP says it is fighting corruption.

Azad went public Sunday when he held a press conference where he did not name Jaitley but put out a statement posing 52 questions for him. On Monday too, Azad raised the DDCA issue twice in Lok Sabha: “They (Congress) should demand a time-bound probe, CBI, SIT probe.” Concluding his remarks, Azad again referred to Jaitley when he said “and we know who was heading the DDCA between 2008 and 2013”.