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Indian police arrest Delhi’s law minister for lying about law degree

The arrest of Jitender Singh Tomar is the latest embarrassment for the Delhi state government run by the Aam Aadmi Party

Published: Updated:

Police in India’s capital on Tuesday arrested New Delhi’s law minister for falsely saying he had a law degree while representing a political party with an anti-corruption platform.

The arrest of Jitender Singh Tomar is the latest embarrassment for the Delhi state government run by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or Common Man Party, which won power in February, in one of the largest election victories in India’s history.

“Our investigation showed that the minister submitted a fake law degree in the election affidavit and had also obtained a license to practice as a lawyer,” said Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of New Delhi police.

Telephone calls to Tomar seeking comment went unanswered.

The minister’s qualifications became a topic of controversy after lawyers from the Delhi Bar Council made a police complaint seeking to examine his college degree.

AAP supporters accused the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of orchestrating the arrest on trumped-up charges following clashes over the right to appoint senior bureaucrats and police officials.

Party leader Arvind Kejriwal has criticized Modi’s efforts to make it easier for businesses to buy farmland, a key issue in the large, mainly rural states where the prime minister’s Hindu nationalist party hopes to consolidate power by winning local polls in the next two years.

Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, called Tuesday’s arrest part of a wider conspiracy hatched by the federal government to malign the state administration.

“Is he a terrorist, has he set off a bomb in Delhi to be arrested?” Sisodia asked reporters. “Tomar has been arrested to deter the Delhi government from acting against corruption.”

Sisodia did not address the false degree accusation, however.

Since taking power, AAP has faced rebellions from founder members upset by Kejriwal’s governing style and has even struggled to clear the streets of garbage, as workers went unpaid.

“Delhi a chaotic disaster,” Shekhar Gupta, a former editor of the Indian Express newspaper, said in a Twitter message.

“Suits Kejriwal, whose politics is built on three pillars, victimhood, name-calling, revenge.”