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AAP Govt in a fix as Punjab minister caught in plot to extort money from foodgrain traders 

Food Processing and Horticulture Minister Fauja Singh Salaria

Chandigarh: The AAP government in Punjab has landed in a soup as an audio clip has gone viral on social media in which one of its cabinet ministers, Fauja Singh Salaria, is heard making plans to extort money from foodgrain traders who are illegally transporting wheat and rice outside the state.

In the audio clip, the minister and his OSD Tarsem Lal Kapoor are heard discussing the method to trap and then extort money from some foodgrain traders.

The AAP leadership is in a fix as this is the second minister who is facing corruption charges in its short tenure. Harpal Cheema, finance minister and number two in the Punjab cabinet, said that the audio tape needed to be examined for its authenticity after which, “if found genuine, action would be taken against the minister.”

The tape is reported to have been leaked out by OSD Tarsem Lal Kapoor as he fell out with the minister after he refused to help the former’s nephew Jonny Kapoor who was arrested recently for unauthorisedly using the national flag on his private car. The minister reportedly refused to intervene leading to differences with his OSD.

Fauja Singh told reporters that Kapoor was trying to blackmail him by tampering with the audio recording though he had not indulged in any extortion. However, Kapoor met senior AAP leaders with some other audio recordings of the minister seeking his ouster from the cabinet.

The 61-year-old minister for freedom fighters, defence services welfare, food processing, and horticulture was a police constable before being elected as an MLA from the Guruharsahai constituency. He was inducted into the cabinet only two months ago.

The opposition, Congress and the Akali Dal are crying hoarse, demanding the minister’s ouster from the cabinet and arrest under relevant anti-corruption laws. Earlier the AAP government’s health minister Vijay Singla was caught demanding a 1% commission from contractors. The Chief Minister had dropped him from the cabinet and the dismissed minister was subsequently arrested on corruption charges.

The Opposition parties are demanding that Salaria also should be treated on the same footing.

Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said that in less than six months of its rule the AAP government’s second minister was caught indulging in corruption. “The less we talk about MLAs from so-called humble backgrounds, the better it is,” he said.

Daljit Cheema, a Shiromani Akali Dal spokesman alleged that the AAP government was proving to be the most corrupt.