Will AAP's Damage-Control Exercise Mollify Swati?

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.

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