Swati Maliwal’s downcast eyes & painful walk to haunt Kejriwal

New Delhi: AAP Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal leaves from the courtroom at Tis Hazari Court in New Delhi, Friday, May 17, 2024. Her statement under Section 164 of the CrPC has been recorded. (IANS)

By Deepika Bhan

The latest scandal to hit the Aam Aadmi Party evokes shock and disgust. A woman MP is assaulted at the Chief Minister’s house, and the perpetrator is later arrested from the CM’s residence.

The Swati Maliwal episode represents a new low in politics, exposing the depths to which India’s newest national party has fallen.

The flip-flop by the AAP on the incident raises suspicions about the party’s leadership itself. Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh met Maliwal a day after the incident. He admitted that something wrong had happened and the party would take appropriate action.

The next day onwards, the party made a volte-face and started putting all the blame on Maliwal.

Instead of shunning the alleged ‘assaulter’ Bibhav Kumar, the Personal Secretary of CM Arvind Kejriwal, the party has chosen to stand by him. Kumar accompanied CM Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh to various events in the days preceding his arrest on May 18. Swati Maliwal, on the other hand, was labelled a ‘liar’.

The party has put up its female Minister, Atishi, to defend the AAP’s ‘honour’.

Despite being a woman, Atishi did not hesitate to resort to victim-shaming and even called Maliwal a pawn in BJP’s conspiracy. Atishi has claimed that Maliwal was facing arrest in an illegal recruitment case and was blackmailed by BJP to become part of the conspiracy against the CM.

Atishi also made references to the selective videos which have been released by AAP to justify the point.

Selective video clips, each a few seconds long, were released to support AAP’s claim that Maliwal is lying and to suggest that CM Kejriwal is being targeted just days before the Lok Sabha election phase in Delhi.

The selective videos released by AAP did help create confusion regarding the kind of chilling details about the assault in the FIR lodged by Maliwal. However, the medical report revealed bruises on her body. As per the report, Maliwal sustained injuries to four parts of her body, including her left leg and below her right eye. This is something Atishi has not reacted to so far.

By fielding Atishi to counter Maliwal’s charges, CM Kejriwal has sought to play smartly by making it a kind of woman vs woman matter and attempting to debilitate the case before the public.

Since the day of the assault on Maliwal, CM Kejriwal has avoided speaking to the media on the issue. Whether it was the joint press conference with Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow, his campaigns in Punjab or the INDIA bloc rally in Mumbai, Kejriwal has maintained silence on the episode. When reporters asked him the tough questions, his angry emotion was too stark to be ignored.

The only time he spoke related to the issue was his televised address wherein he sought to deflect the scandal towards BJP. An episode happened at his official residence and all the involved characters are AAP people, and yet Kejriwal, instead of cleaning his act, is trying to give a spin to save himself and his party.

Swati Maliwal is no ordinary person. She is AAP’s chosen Rajya Sabha member, held the post of Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women for years and has been associated with Kejriwal for around two decades, much before the AAP came into existence. She had direct access to CM Kejriwal’s residence till May 13, the day she was suddenly stopped.

What went wrong suddenly? There are several theories, including rumours that she was being asked to resign from Rajya Sabha so that the seat could be given to a senior lawyer, who is fighting Kejriwal’s cases.

Whatever the reason behind the May 13 happenings at CM Kejriwal’s residence, the fact is that AAP is now imploding under the enormous and rapid success it has achieved in a short time.

Right from the day Kejriwal formed AAP, controversies have been erupting. Several AAP leaders have been accused of financial misconduct and have landed in jail. CM Arvind Kejriwal calls himself and AAP ‘Kattar Imandar’, but is currently on interim bail in a corruption case after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in February.

In August 2022 during a hectic election campaign in Gujarat, CM Kejriwal had said that Manish Sisodia, who was Deputy CM then, deserves Bharat Ratna for improving education standards in Delhi schools. Six months later Sisodia was arrested in the liquor scam case and has been in jail with courts refusing to give him bail.

With the Swati Maliwal episode, the AAP seems to be hurtling down the hill it climbed in 2012.

The images of Maliwal with downcast eyes and a painful, slow walk will only haunt CM Kejriwal for a long time.

‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Arvind Kejriwal, who started as an anti-corruption crusader, should perhaps reflect on this.

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