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Swati Maliwal Assault Case: AAP in More Mess

Swati Maliwal Assault Case: AAP in More Mess

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 14: After some half-a-dozen of its leaders got into jails over the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam, Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was in more mess with a senior party leader and Rajya Sabha member complaining to the police about being assaulted by some staff members of the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at his official residence.

The former chief of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal, now an AAP member of the Rajya Sabha, had on Monday informed the mobile police control room that she was assaulted at the chief minister’s official residence by Mr Kejriwal’s personal assistant Bibhav Kumar. She later went to the police station to register a formal complaint but left without doing so within five minutes after receiving several phone calls.

A day after the incident, the AAP on Tuesday formally acknowledged the incident and said Mr Kejriwal had taken note of it and would take stern action against the guilty. The incident has sparked a major political row with the BJP and the Congress condemning the AAP and demanding “justice” for Ms Maliwal.

“AAP Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal was harassed by party boss Arvind Kejriwal’s personal assistant – he “misbehaved” with her at the Delhi Chief Minister’s city residence,” party leader Sanjay Singh said Tuesday, a day after unconfirmed reports said she had been assaulted by the staffer in question. Mr Singh called the incident “highly condemnable” and said Chief Minister Kejriwal “will take strict action.”

“A very distressing incident took place yesterday morning. Arvind Kejriwal had called Swati Maliwal for a meeting. She was waiting in the drawing room to meet him when Bibhav Kumar came in and misbehaved with her. After this, Ms Maliwal called the police and told them what happened.”

“This is a condemnable incident. Arvind Kejriwal has taken cognisance and has said the strictest possible action should be taken…” Mr Singh told reporters, “Swati Maliwal has done great work for the people and country, and is one of the party’s oldest and senior-most leaders. We stand with her and will deal with this issue seriously, as per Mr Kejriwal’s order. The AAP does not support such behaviour.”

Mr Singh’s statement has been attacked swiftly by the BJP. The party’s Delhi boss, Virendra Sachdeva, said, “Why were they silent for 36 hours? Where was the Chief Minister? A Rajya Sabha MP… that too a woman… was misbehaved with at Mr Kejriwal’s home and you are taking cognisance only now?” “It is shameful. Action should be taken…” he declared. He also claimed political pressure had stopped Ms Maliwal, so far, from filing a police case.

The AAP faced an avalanche of criticism following Mr Singh’s statement – after it was reported that Ms Maliwal was assaulted inside the Chief Minister’s home. The BJP’s Arvinder Singh Lovely, a recent recruit from the Congress, declared, “If Swati Maliwal has been treated like this… it is condemnable and shameful. Those who talk about guarantees cannot guarantee women’s safety in their own homes. This raises questions on the administration.”

The issue has also been picked up by the National Commission for Women, which said it will probe the incident and has also demanded an ‘action-taken’ report from Delhi Police within 72 hours. Delhi Police confirmed they received calls from within Mr Kejriwal’s residence – from a phone number registered to Ms Maliwal – alerting them to the harassment. The caller, though, did not identify themself.

The cops later said Ms Maliwal appeared at the police station in the Civil Lines area, where Mr Kejriwal’s official residence is located – but left without filing a formal complaint. “At 9.34 am (on Monday), we received a call… the caller said she had been assaulted in the Chief Minister’s residence. After some time, Swati Maliwal came to the police station (but) she left without a complaint,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Delhi North) MK Meena told reporters.

The Delhi Police said Swati Maliwal had called the PCR number at 9.34 am, reporting that she was assaulted by Bibhav Kumar.

At 10 am, Monday, she came to the police station but left after five minutes without lodging a formal complaint. A police officer said she left after she was told that a medical examination was mandatory in assault cases.

The entire incident spawned a political row inside the Delhi municipal corporation’s offices this morning, with BJP and Congress councillors demanding action and calling on Mr Kejriwal to quit. Slogans such as “Swati Maliwal ko insaaf do” (Justice for Swati Maliwal), and “Kejriwal istifa do” (Kejriwal, resign) were raised by the councillors as they stalled the beginning of proceedings.

That the BJP, which has also demanded the Chief Minister resign over his alleged role in the liquor policy scam – in connection with which he was arrested and jailed in March – is unsurprising. That the Congress has reacted so sharply has raised eyebrows, given the two parties are members of the INDIA bloc challenging the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, and are supposed to mount a united fight for the national capital’s seven seats.

The fresh flashpoint between the AAP and the BJP comes as the two are locked in confrontation over Mr Kejriwal and the alleged Delhi liquor policy case. The Enforcement Directorate, which arrested the Chief Minister, has claimed the party received bribes of ₹ 100 crore for allotment of liquor sales licences, and that this money was used to fund election campaigns in Goa and Punjab. Mr Kejriwal and the AAP have denied all charges; they have accused the BJP of a “political vendetta” ahead of the general election.

Last week Mr Kejriwal received bail from the Supreme Court. He has been released – to allow him to campaign for the AAP – till June 1, and must surrender to Delhi’s Tihar Jail by June 2.



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