Alberta’s former associate minister Naresh Bhardwaj won’t run in next election despite being cleared of allegations by party

Naresh Bhardwaj
Naresh Bhardwaj

NARESH Bhardwaj, Alberta’s former associate minister, announced Monday that he won’t run in the next election in spite of being cleared of allegations that he tried to bribe a supporter of his rival, Balraj Manhas, to claim that his name had improperly appeared on his nomination papers in the Edmonton-Ellerslie constituency.

The Progressive Conservative Party cleared him last weekend as they said that there were “significant inconsistencies in the evidence” provided against him.

“The party looks forward to seeing Naresh Bhardwaj’s name cleared completely in the near future and it will cooperate fully with any police investigation,” the statement read.

“In terms of Mr. Bhardwaj’s candidacy, the investigation identified significant inconsistencies in the evidence provided against Mr. Bhardwaj and revealed that evidence was only presented after Mr. Manhas’ disqualification,” the statement said.

“However, given that this matter has been brought to the Edmonton Police Service, no further details will be released at this time.”

The NDP wrote a letter last week that asked Edmonton police to investigate the matter.

News reports last week said that Balbir Sidhu, who was supporting Manhas, president of the United Cabbies Association of Edmonton, alleged that he was offered $10,000 to make the claim. And Bilal Ali alleged that Bhardwaj misled him to sign a document that was used to disqualify Manhas from the race.

Manhas said the party called him two days before the nomination vote, telling him his papers had irregularities and asked him to drop out of the race.

Bhardwaj said in his statement: “It is with deep regret that I am announcing today that I will withdraw my candidacy with the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.”

He said: “I continue to vigorously work to clear up this matter with full and complete confidence that my innocence will be proven absolutely. However, because this matter is unresolved and the timeline is unpredictable, I have made the decision to step away from my candidacy immediately as I do not want this matter to unfairly impact my premier, my colleagues or my party.”

Bhardwaj added: “I will continue to serve the people of Edmonton-Ellerslie until such time that this matter is resolved, or the next election campaign begins.”

Bhardwaj said that he continues to “vigorously work to clear up this matter with full and complete confidence that my innocence will be proven absolutely.”

Bhardwaj has hired a lawyer to challenge the allegations against him. His statement of claim against Sidhu was filed in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench on March 13.

Bhardwaj was elected to his second term as an MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie on April 23, 2012.