NARESH Bhardwaj, Alberta’s associate minister for persons with disabilities, has decided to step out of cabinet as the Progressive Conservative Party investigates 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.
News reports said that Balbir Sidhu, who was supporting Manhas, 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.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice told the media: “Obviously, as leader of the party, I want to make sure that those allegations are investigated and we are looking into them. I have not received a report in terms of where they stand or what they have found.” Meanwhile, Bhardwaj will remain in caucus.
Bhardwaj denies the allegations and has hired a lawyer to challenge them. In a statement to the media, he said: “Out of my respect for the premier and my cabinet colleagues who must be able to focus on the very important matters in front of them, I have offered to step away from the cabinet table both so there is no inappropriate reflection of this matter on my cabinet colleagues, and so that I have maximum time to work on these matters with my legal counsel.”
BHARDWAJ was elected to his second term as an MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie on April 23, 2012. He moved to Alberta with his family in 1976. He became a journeyman automotive mechanic in 1983 before going back to school and graduating at the University of Alberta with a double major. Bhardwaj then spent the next 18 years working as a teacher in Pincher Creek, Whitecourt, Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton, teaching predominantly automotives, mathematics and physical education.
Active in Edmonton communities for over 36 years, Bhardwaj has served on many committees and associations, establishing Youth Link, a youth employment training program, and coaching soccer at the community league level and for Juventus U-18.