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Alberta Alberta Tory withdraws candidacy while bribery allegations investigated

Alberta Premier Alison Redford flips a pancake as MLA Naresh Bhardwaj watches during the Premier's annual K-Days Pancake Breakfast in Edmonton, Alberta on Thursday July 18, 2013.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

A former associate cabinet minister who faced allegations of bribery and tampering in a heated nomination race has withdrawn his candidacy for Alberta's Progressive Conservative party.

Naresh Bhardwaj says he made the decision with regret, but adds he doesn't want the situation to be a distraction for the party or Premier Jim Prentice.

The PCs have said that their internal investigation found what they call are "significant inconsistencies" in the evidence against Bhardwaj.

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It's been alleged that Bhardwaj offered a bribe to undermine the nomination papers of a rival running against him for the PC nomination in the Edmonton-Ellerslie constituency.

Bhardwaj, who stepped down as associate minister for persons with disabilities when the accusations surfaced, denies the allegations and has filed a lawsuit against his accusers.

The NDP has asked Edmonton police to look into the allegations.

"I continue to vigorously work to clear up this matter with the full and complete confidence that my innocence will be proven absolutely," Bhardwaj said in a statement.

"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."

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