Satyendar Jain: Arvind Kejriwal's Man Friday or Tainted Politician?
The man in the eye of the storm is Satyendar Jain, state Cabinet minister and close aide of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Jain is facing allegations of corruption, irregularities and nepotism in at least three major cases.
Satyendar Jain (left) joined Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement in 2011. It was during this time that he became a close confidant of Arvind Kejriwal. (File photo/PTI)
New Delhi: After riding to power on the back of an anti-corruption movement two years ago, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi finds itself in the midst of allegations of corruption. The man in the eye of the storm is Satyendar Jain, state Cabinet minister and close aide of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Jain is facing allegations of corruption, irregularities and nepotism in at least three major cases. But is Jain, as AAP claims, a victim of political vendetta?
Before jumping into politics, Jain was a government employee in the Central Public Works Department (CPWD). Sources close to him say that he brought his experience as an architect in the Delhi government’s functioning. He later quit his job to form an architectural consultancy firm and started two NGOs — Drishti and Sparsh. While Drishti works for the welfare of the visually impaired, Sparsh works for the physically and mentally challenged. In 2011, he joined Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. It was during this time that he became a close confidant of Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia.
In 2015, after AAP won 67 out of 70 seats in the Assembly elections, Arvind Kejriwal gave some of the most crucial ministries to Jain. It was perhaps a sign of the CM’s faith in Jain that he was given charge of six portfolios. Some of the portfolios that Jain got were to do with AAP’s most crucial campaign promises — affordable healthcare, more government savings and slashing of power bills.
Jain’s portfolios include health, PWD, home, power and industries. Some of the party’s biggest achievements, sources say, can be credited almost exclusively to Jain. As health minister, Jain oversaw the development of Kejriwal’s ambitious Mohalla Clinics. While the government fell massively short of its target to build 1,000 Mohalla Clinics in a year, the project garnered praise from international press and even from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. One of the party’s biggest poll promises, which it managed to keep, was the slashing of power bills. That, too, fell under Jain’s mandate.
A senior AAP MLA, on condition of anonymity, said, “He is a simple man with revolutionary ideas. Many people don’t know, but most of the government’s radical ideas have been his brainchild. For example, we built five flyovers in one year and saved Rs 350 crore on these projects. It was Jain’s idea to save this money and use it in areas such as healthcare. His expertise as an architect came in handy. It is because of his work and his abilities to give new ideas that he is the third most important member of the Cabinet after Arvind and Manish. That is why he is so important to the government.”
A burden for Kejriwal or victim of vendetta?
Over the last year, Jain got mired in some of the murkiest scandals involving the four-year-old party. Earlier this year, the CBI launched a preliminary enquiry against Jain in a case of money laundering. It was alleged that Jain had laundered Rs 4.36 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 11.78 crore during the 2010-12 period. According to the allegations, he invested the laundered money in property. The CBI is also probing the appointment of his daughter Soumya to the post of adviser to the health department.
Jain was reeling under allegations of nepotism and money laundering when his former Cabinet colleague Kapil Mishra dropped a fresh bombshell. Mishra alleged that he had seen Jain handover Rs 2 crore “illegal cash” to Arvind Kejriwal. He even alleged that Jain had facilitated an illegal land deal involving a member of Kejriwal’s family.
For those close to Kejriwal, however, the charges against Jain are trumped up. “Everyone who knows Jain knows that he is honest. He has done some of the best work in the government. He is the force behind Mohalla Clinics, flyover construction and slashing of power tariffs. Even the education sector has benefitted from him. Expanding classrooms may have been Manish Sisodia’s plan, but it could not have been successful without Jain’s PWD ministry. The BJP has decided on a strategy to discredit one of AAP’s most successful ministers. This way, they want to discredit the government,” another senior AAP leader said.
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