Police in the only ‘full-fledged’ state ruled by the Aam Admi Party acted swiftly on a complaint against BJP leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, poet and former AAP member Kumar Vishwas and Alka Lamba of the Congress, and came knocking at their homes in Ghaziabad (UP) and Delhi. While Bagga has been arrested sparking a Punjab-Haryana – Delhi police row, Vishwas and Lamba have been summoned to appear before the Ropar police for questioning on ‘defamatory’ remarks against Arvind Kejriwal.
The Ropar (Punjab) Police took an inter-state journey a week after a complaint was lodged that (days before the Punjab assembly polls) Vishwas had accused the AAP Supremo Arvind Kejriwal of supporting Khalistani elements while Alka Lamba had backed his remarks. The Punjab Police could not serve the notice to Alka Lamba personally and left after pasting it on her door. A widely held view is that the Punjab Police was actually acting at the behest of Kejriwal.
Admitting to ignorance about legal matters one must, however, wonder (on the basis of a media report) why the IPC sections mentioned in the FIR against two critics of Kejriwal included those relating to ‘assault’, ‘illegal confinement ‘ and ‘criminal conspiracy’. The complainant who could well be a member of the AAP had said that Kumar Vishwas made an ‘inflammatory’ statement against Kejriwal, which threatened the ‘peaceful atmosphere’ of Punjab.
The complainant described his agony resulting from the ‘inflammatory’ remarks of Kumar Vishwas pithily: something to the effect that while travelling through villages in Punjab (during the poll campaign) with AAP workers he was accosted by masked men who called him ‘Khalistani’. It occurred regularly.
Kumar Vishwas has been asked to produce ‘evidence’ in support of the allegation he made against the AAP supremo. Alka Lamba will be questioned on what basis did she support Kumar Vishwas’ statement.
At the time he had alleged that Kejriwal had ‘Khalistani’ links, Kumar Vishwas had said that he will prove his contention with proof. He also maintained that he was responsible for introducing Bhagwant Mann, the AAP chief minister of Punjab, to the Aam Admi Party. At that time Vishwas Kumar was considered quite close to Kejriwal. They later fell out.
The episode has raised some questions about the kind of politics Kejriwal pursues. Does he believe in ‘vendetta politics’, as some of his critics in Punjab have said? If that is so, it is a far cry from the time he was talking vociferously about radically changing the way politics is played in the country. He promised end to corruption and ‘transparency’ in governance while denouncing the paraphernalia of VIP culture.
‘Transparency’ in government, one would imagine, includes freedom to question the people in power. Kejriwal had freely criticised a lot of politicians, especially from the ruling party. He had famously described a union minister—incidentally, one of the very few who appears to be acceptable to the Opposition—as the ‘most corrupt’ minister in the present dispensation.
The minister took Kejriwal to court with a defamation suit, though he could have taken a course for which his party is (in)famous: send central tax and investigative agencies after Kejriwal to ‘teach him a lesson’. As the case began to meander its long way in the court and, obviously, Kejriwal was finding it difficult to prove his charge, the AAP supremo decided to tender an apology and end the matter.
The minister is said to have readily accepted the apology and asked Kejriwal over for a meal. While the minister received praise for his gesture, Kejriwal invited some bitter taunts for the way he caved in. As far as one knows, since this episode, Kejriwal has refrained from using superlatives to run down his political rivals.
Now, many are wondering why the once chastened Kejriwal had to use the police working under his allegedly ‘proxy’ chief minister of Punjab for moving against his critics?
The timing of the police action against Kejriwal’s critics is also questionable. The ‘Khalistani’ remark reportedly made by Kumar Vishwas against Kejriwal was laughed off by Kejriwal himself. It was very clearly rejected by the people of Punjab who elected Kejriwal’s AAP with a massive majority, electing 92 of his members in a house of 117.
It may not be wrong to say that far from damaging the prospects of AAP or the character of Kejriwal, the ‘Khalistani’ remark only brought more votes for his party. It was an issue which nobody took seriously during the polls and has been forgotten after the polls. What for has it been revived?
Let us assume for a moment that the police succeed in getting both Kumar Vishwas and Alka Lamba convicted in a court. Will that redound to the credit of Kejriwal? Not when Kumar Vishwas is out of politics and Alka Lamba is in no position to challenge Kejriwal.
If the case prolongs, it is Kejriwal who is likely to attract some bad publicity for practicing ‘vendetta politics’. Kumar Vishwas may fail to produce any evidence that satisfies the court and, let us again assume, he is sentenced as punishment. How will that help Kejriwal? In fact, it may produce the opposite result: Kumar Vishwas can play the victim card if he is punished to satisfy the ego (or whims) of a formidable politician.
Again, it may be another admission of ignorance of refinements of the rules and the law, but a question that also agitates one is why the case against the two critics of Kejriwal could not be filed in Delhi. Admitted that the impugned statement was made at the time of the Punjab polls, but Punjab is not the state where Kejriwal normally resides.
It only strengthens the feeling that Kejriwal is no different from the politicians he used to routinely denounce where he tasted power. He is extra sensitive to criticism and does not believe in ‘forgive and forget’. His ‘revolutionary’ spirit has evaporated and with that goes out his desire to ring in a new dawn of politics in India.
His chance to redeem himself will be a good show by the AAP government in Punjab which, by most accounts, is remote controlled by him. Punjab faces a multitude of problems, not least of which would be balancing the budget with a huge debt while its resources are inadequate to pay for all the freebies announced by the Aam Admi Party in its manifesto. He has to prove that he could have done more in Delhi if only he had all the power normally enjoyed by chief ministers of ‘full-fledged’ states.