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Kejriwal on sticky wicket after prolonged silence on Swati Maliwal ‘assault’ case

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New Delhi, May 16: Soon after the news of a joint press conference by AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav came on Wednesday evening, a sense of anticipation started building in the media circles.

After all, the Delhi Chief Minister, currently out on interim bail in the excise policy case, was flying to Lucknow, that too when he and his party were embroiled in an undesirable controversy — the reported physical assault of his long-standing colleague, AAP Rajya Sabha MP, and former chief of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Swati Maliwal, in the drawing room of his official residence.

It was assumed that Kejriwal would have something substantive to say on the issue to clear the air. More so, because two days ago, his trusted party colleague Sanjay Singh had publicly said that Kejriwal was seized of the matter and appropriate action would be taken.

His trip to Lucknow just for a media briefing, or at least that’s what the public knows, assumed additional significance since the Aam Admi Party (AAP) practically has no base in UP, nor has it fielded any candidate in the state.

It seemed that he was landing there as a campaigner for the Samajwadi Party and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

Congress representation, however, was missing.

What Kejriwal had been preaching to his party workers and his supporters all these years — use phone cameras and record if anybody commits a wrong — came to haunt him rather badly on Thursday morning.

Kejriwal hit the headlines as soon as he landed in Lucknow as a small video clip went viral showing Bihav Kumar — the Personal Assistant and long-time associate of the Delhi Chief Minister who allegedly assaulted Maliwal on May 13 — coming out of the airport with Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh.

He clearly seemed part of the entourage.

Whether or not Bihav Kumar is being shielded by the party leadership or which side Kejriwal stands is anybody’s guess.

The much-hyped press conference was also very short with three leaders barely speaking for a few minutes before leaving abruptly.

But that didn’t mean no news points were coming out of it. In fact, it was just the opposite.

First, when a simple question about Maliwal was asked, Kejriwal looked expressionless, didn’t speak a word, and moved the mike to Akhilesh Yadav and then to Sanjay Singh.

Second, for INDIA bloc partner and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, the physical assault of a lady Rajya Sabha MP at the Chief Minister’s official residence seemed a non-issue. He tried to pull a paper out of his pocket, saying “there were other more important issues”.

Third, Sanjay Singh, who two days ago promised a “probe” and “action” against the accused, sang a different tune on Thursday — blaming and seeking answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a whole lot of things — on Manipur, on Prajwal Ravanna, Maliwal allegedly being roughed by Delhi Police when she went to Jantar Mantar to express solidarity with women wrestlers protesting against BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, etc.

The assault on Maliwal no longer seemed to be an issue for him.

Kejriwal’s opening statement was also interesting.

He came out with a failed conspiracy theory which was first propagated by BJP’s political rivals and their support group in 2022 ahead of the UP Assembly elections – that PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were apprehensive of the rising stature of Yogi Adityanath, who will not become the Chief Minister again.

It seemed a figment of imagination of someone from the opposition ranks.

The idea was to make it a talking point, create confusion in the minds of a section of people, and if possible, sow seeds of suspicion against the BJP leadership by creating an imaginary fight.

The people, however, didn’t buy it, and the results and turn of events silenced the conspiracy theorists.

A few days ago, Kejriwal said the same thing in Delhi. In Lucknow, he was repeating the same — that Narendra Modi wouldn’t be the Prime Minister after two years and pass over the baton to Amit Shah, while Yogi Adityanath would be dumped in two months if the BJP retains power at the Centre.

Kejriwal was perhaps banking on the dictum that public memory is short.

But he didn’t realise the inherent contradiction in his statement – by envisioning Narendra Modi voluntarily leaving the Prime Minister’s post after two years when he turns 75, Kejriwal is admitting that PM Modi is winning the ongoing Lok Sabha elections for a historic third consecutive term!

IANS

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