A Shocking Admission & An Assurance: Will AAP’s Damage-Control Exercise Mollify Swati Maliwal?


AAP leader Swati Maliwal alleges assault at Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal's residence. (Image: PTI)

AAP leader Swati Maliwal alleges assault at Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s residence. (Image: PTI)

With elections on, had Maliwal complained officially, Union government agencies like the Delhi Police and the National Commission for Women would have come knocking on the doors of the chief minister and his former PS

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in damage-control mode once again after it acknowledged unequivocally that Arvind Kejriwal’s former PS Bibhav Kumar had misbehaved with its Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal at the Delhi chief minister’s residence.

AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said: “Swati Maliwal had reached the residence of Arvind Kejriwal to meet him and was waiting for him in the drawing room. In the meantime, Bibhav Kumar reached there and misbehaved with Maliwal [unhone Swati Maliwal ke saath bahut badtameezi ki, bahut abhadrata ki]. This incident can never be condemned enough. Kejriwal has taken cognizance of the issue and has directed that strict action be taken in this regard.”

Singh’s unequivocal admission of wrongdoing by Kumar is perhaps the first such admission by the AAP in the midst of countless allegations levelled against the party. Singh’s statement did not leave any room for interpretation and did not even carry the characteristic word “allegedly” or “Swati alleged”. Shockingly, the party admitted to the episode even though Maliwal had not got her medical examination done after reaching the Civil Lines police station nor had she filed an FIR.

After making two calls to the helpline number 100, saying that she was at the chief minister’s residence and was assaulted by Kumar — first at the chief minister’s behest and then correcting the accusation to drop the chief minister’s name — Maliwal had reached the Civil Lines police station. However, she did not file a formal complaint.

While her allegations sent shockwaves across the country, the AAP fielded some of its senior leaders to get in touch with her to understand what had happened. Singh, who happened to be in Mumbai, rushed back to Delhi and was able to establish contact with Maliwal. It appears that Maliwal wanted a clear signal to be sent that what happened with her was wrong and the one who was guilty should be punished.

Both Maliwal and Kumar are close to the chief minister and have been associated with him since his days of activism, working in non-governmental organisations PCRF and Kabir. While Maliwal has been in and out of AAP, Kumar has been by Kejriwal’s side through all the ups and downs of the party. Kumar is the link between the AAP convenor and the party. He is also the link between the party and the chief minister’s family ever since the latter was arrested on March 21. Kumar enjoys the trust of the chief minister and, because of his proximity, enjoys considerable clout within the party. It is because of these reasons that Singh’s statement that Kejriwal will ensure strict action is important.

Maliwal, a well-known activist by now, was the DCW chairperson and galvanised the Delhi Women’s Commission. When the time came for the AAP to nominate its Rajya Sabha members, Kejriwal rewarded the young activist by elevating Maliwal to the Upper House. However, when Kejriwal was arrested, Maliwal was not in India — neither did she return soon. Attempts by journalists to reach out to her did not succeed. There were murmurs of resentment against her that a person, so handsomely rewarded, was missing when the party went through its hour of crisis.

On Maliwal’s part, too, there could be grievances — not being promoted for a more visible role like some of her party colleagues.

So far as the AAP is concerned, this is at best a damage-control exercise. With elections on, the party could not have taken a chance with Maliwal going ahead and filing official complaints and holding press conferences. The opposition BJP has latched on to the story, demanding the strictest action against Kejriwal. Additionally, had Maliwal complained officially, Union government agencies like the Delhi Police and the National Commission for Women would have come knocking on the doors of the chief minister and his former PS.

However, the big question is whether Maliwal will be content with Singh’s statement. All eyes are on her next move. Repeated attempts to elicit a statement from Maliwal were unfruitful.

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