Vijay Kumar, the main accused in the desecration of the Holy Quran in Malerkotla on 24 June, has claimed on Saturday that he committed the act at the behest of Aam Aadmi Party MLA Naresh Yadav.
Kumar has claimed in front of the media that Yadav is his friend and that he offered him Rs 1 crore to desecrate the Quran in Malerkotla in order to create resentment against the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.
Yadav, the MLA from Mehrauli in Delhi, has denied any role in the incident. However, he has reportedly been named in the FIR and the and is likely to be summoned by the police.
"Vijay told us that Yadav said the AAP wants to win the Punjab elections by hook or by crook," The Indian Express has quoted Sangrur SSP Pritpal Singh Thind as having said.
"The conspiracy was given a final shape at Yadav's residence in Delhi. We have also been able to establish through call records that Kumar and Yadav exchanged calls on 18, 19 and 23 June," Thind told the media.
This has come as an embarrassment for AAP on the eve of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's three day visit to Punjab.
Refuting the charges, AAP has said that the SAD-BJP government in Punjab has gone berserk and is indulging in political vendetta.
Interestingly, Yadav is reported to have been previously with the BJP before he joined AAP.
VHP leader arrested
The sacrilege of the Quran in the Muslim-majority town of Malerkotla on the evening of 24 June led to violence in which 8 people were injured. Though a mob indulged in arson and attacked the house of SAD MLA Farzana Nesara Khatoon, there were no communal riots and people from other communities were not targetted.
According to the Punjab Police, Vijay Kumar, a Delhi based businessman and a self-styled Hindu radical with a deep hatred towards the Muslim community, wanted to take revenge for the terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur.
The Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Punjab unit, Nand Kishore Goldy, and his son Gaurav have also been arrested for helping Vijay Kumar
The VHP has admitted that Goldy is its office bearer but claims that he and his son are being framed. Goldy is also being backed by BJP MLA from Bhoa in Punjab, Seema Kumari.
The police had initially claimed that none of the accused have links with any radical outfits. The fact that Goldy is a VHP office bearer became known only after the organisation held a press conference defending him on 29 June.
It would be disastrous for AAP if Yadav is found to be involved in desecrating the Quran and trying to instigate riots in Malekotla in collusion with the VHP.
Not only will it be an embarrassment in Punjab, it would also harm its plans of expanding across India. The party is trying to fill the vacuum that is being created by the weakening of the Congress and much of it involves reaching out to the Muslim community.
If indeed its MLA is found guilty, it could put paid the AAP's hopes of emerging as the secular alternative at the national level. It remains to be seen if the AAP digs its heels and defends Yadav or decides to cut its losses and distance itself from him.