Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Atishi is now Delhi government’s minister for education and her party colleague Saurabh Bharadwaj holds charge of the health department.
The two legislators took oath as ministers today to fill up the cabinet berths vacated by senior AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain, both in jail and facing trial in separate corruption cases.
Delhi is unlikely to get a new Deputy Chief Minister at this point, a charge earlier held by Mr Sisodia.
The two leaders were administered the oath of office by Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena. Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhur attended the ceremony.
Ms Atishi, who represents Kalkaji Assembly segment, will also handle the portfolios of public works, power and tourism. Besides health, Mr Bharadwaj has been entrusted with water supply and industries portfolio.
Speaking to the media after the oath ceremony, Ms Atishi said the AAP leaders have been jailed on false charges. “When Lord Ram was exiled, his brother Bharat placed his slippers on the throne and ruled on his behalf. We will shoulder the responsibility of Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain till they return. We will not let work in Delhi stop,” she said.
Mr Bharadwaj said some flagship programs have been launched by Delhi’s health, education and water supply departments. “We are trying to ensure work at a swift pace.” he said.
The new appointments come after Mr Sisodia, who held as many as 18 portfolios in the Delhi cabinet, resigned as minister on February 28, two days after his arrest by the CBI in the liquor policy case. Mr Jain, earlier in charge of Delhi’s health department, has been in jail since May last year following his arrest in a money laundering case. The AAP has said their resignations were not an admission of guilt, but an “administrative step”.
Following Mr Sisodia and Mr Jain’s resignation, Delhi minister Raaj Kumar Anand had been given interim charge of education and health – both focus areas of the AAP in Delhi. For now, Kailash Gehlot will be handling the finance portfolio, another department Mr Sisodia was in charge of.
Ms Atishi has earlier served as an advisor to Mr Sisodia, primarily on education, between 2015 and 2017. A Rhodes scholar, she was first elected to Assembly in the 2020 election and has emerged as a prominent face of the party over the past few years .
Mr Bharadwaj is also the chief spokesperson of the AAP and the vice-chairman of the Delhi Jal Board, the agency responsible for supplying water to the national capital. He was a cabinet minister in the AAP government during the 49-day tenure in 2013-14 after which Mr Kejriwal had stepped down, taking responsibility for the failure to bring the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill.
The Constitution provides for a maximum of seven ministers for Delhi — 10 per cent of the total number of 70 assembly seats.