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Kejriwal, Khurshid battle intensifies: 'Protest to continue until Law Minister quits'

Agencies   |  Oct 14, 2012, 08:45AM IST
New Delhi: The war of attrition between Arvind Kejriwal and Salman Khurshid over allegations of irregularities against the Law Minister's NGO escalated on Saturday with the former launching an indefinite protest demanding his resignation and arrest, shortly after being released from a makeshift jail.
 
Anti-corruption activist and India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejriwal is not backing down from the war of words. They say they won't budge and will keep protesting until Khurshid is removed from the Cabinet and arrested along with his wife for alleged irregularities in the functioning of the NGO.
 
They say they won't budge and will keep protesting until Khurshid is removed from the Cabinet and arrested along with his wife for alleged irregularities in the functioning of the NGO, Kejriwal said. 
 
In the face of unrelenting attack from Kejriwal, Khurshid yet again rubbished the allegations saying "he has nothing to hide". 
 
"Frankly nothing, nothing to hide. We have all the facts and I know personally, and these are camps... I have personally gone," he said in London. Hitting out at his detractors, he said, "While in my own country, third-rate people are doing third-rate things."
 
Following a sting operation by a news channel over the functioning of Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust owned by him and his wife Louise, it was alleged that the NGO was involved in cases of financial misappropriation and forgery, a charge denied by the couple. Taking on from this, Arvind Kejriwal demanded that Khurshid be asked to resign from the Union cabinet and be arrested along with his wife.
 
The IAC activist upped the ante against law minister and his wife after a draft report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out several irregularities in the utilisation of Central grants given to the trust. The draft report says that in 2009-10, a Central grant of Rs 71.5 lakh - meant for distributing aid and appliances to differently-abled people in 17 districts of Uttar Pradesh - wasn't fully utilised, with the trust giving out wrong information. 
 
To add more trouble for Khurshid, a 'The Times of India' report claimed a letter with the forged signature of a senior Uttar Pradesh government official was allegedly used to request the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to release the second tranche of funds for Khurshid's wife Louise's trust for the differently-abled, the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust in March 2011.
 
Meanwhile, Khurshid's wife Louise, the project director of the NGO Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, lashed out at Kejriwal, terming the allegations of "money bungling" as "baseless innuendos" and accused him of "doing politics using the shoulders of the disabled".
 
On Saturday, Kejriwal and disabled people came to Parliament Street police station this afternoon after they were released from detention at a makeshift jail in Bawana in outer Delhi where they were kept since Friday evening.
 
They were detained on Friday afternoon when police stopped them from marching towards Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Race Course Road residence.
 
The activists will continue their protest at Parliament Street till Khurshid is removed from the Cabinet and arrested along with his wife for alleged irregularities in the functioning of the NGO, Kejriwal said. Both Khurshid and wife have denied the charges.
 
Kejriwal sought to up the ante by calling for throwing the UPA government out of power. 
 
Rebutting the allegations, Louise trashed speculation about her husband resigning over the issue, saying there is no reason why her husband should step down.
 
"There is no inquiry against Khurshid either by the central government or any report by the CAG. So why should he step down," Louise said.
 
Louise also criticised a television group against which she has filed a defamation suit for a sting operation on the issue saying more such suits will be filed including one by the law minister himself.
 
"They could find only three persons to say that they have not received anything, whereas we have provided artificial limbs to thousands of people. And we alone did not do all this. Our MLAs like Vivek Bansal, Jitin Prasada and others also organised camps for the disabled in various areas where artificial limbs were distributed. They are all disturbed now.
 
"We have spent huge money serving the people of our constituency Farrukhabad for which we did not take anything from the government. We will not soil our hands for an amount like Rs70 lakh. We have done no wrong. All this is totally false," she said.
 
Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said, "We have released them (the activists) from detention." Besides Kejriwal, the others who were detained included Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai.
 
(With PTI inputs)
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