Editorial: Bail For Kejriwal Nixes AAP Victim Card

Editorial: Bail For Kejriwal Nixes AAP Victim Card

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, May 12, 2024, 08:09 PM IST
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Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal | PTI

The Supreme Court decision last Friday to grant interim bail in the liquor excise case to Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister, might be unprecedented in law but nonetheless it ought to be welcome. For, allowing him to lead the AAP campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha poll as the head of a party which runs governments in Delhi and Punjab would help voters make an informed choice between it and the Congress on the one side and the ruling BJP on the other. That he will be back in prison on June 2 after the end of the 7th and last round of polling was the court’s way of balancing the order which came in the teeth of stiff resistance by the Enforcement Directorate.

Of course, the ED had a point that releasing a person arrested on serious charges of money laundering and fraud even for electioneering was without precedent. Since the courts follow precedents, henceforth a terrorist in prison could demand bail to campaign in the polls for self or someone he supports politically. There are quite a few examples of people contesting elections from prison and failing to secure bail, among these prominent leaders who were detained under the draconian Maintenance Internal Security Act during the 19-month Emergency. If the court still thought it wise to grant Kejriwal bail, albeit till the end of the polling on June 1, nobody can question its decision.

However, it is unlikely that Kejriwal’s temporary bail is going to help him electorally. For, contrary to the AAP claim he has not been freed from the taint of the excise scam. The charge sheet is yet to be filed and the trial has to resume for the courts to consider the merits and the demerits of the ED case. Besides, till his release, the AAP leaders in Delhi and Punjab were desperately making to make his arrest the main issue of their campaign, complete with large-sized photographs of the prisoner behind bars. In short, the AAP was playing the victim card. With him free on bail, the issue will shift to the competing records in governments of Modi and Kejriwal. Aside from making vastly exaggerated claims about improvement in Delhi’s educational and healthcare systems Kejriwal’s low cunning and capacity to indulge in hysterics seems to have run its course. But until the taint of the excise scam is removed from his craftily designed aam aadmi visage he will remain a suspect in the popular eye. Regardless of the fine details of the charges against him, no AAP leader or lawyer has offered a convincing answer to the simple question that if the liquor policy the AAP Government implemented with great fanfare, why did it withdraw it overnight while explaining the how and why of the decision. The answer is simple: It was a policy tailor-made to benefit both the liquor traders and AAP, the latter in sharing of the unearned profit for building AAP’s election war-chest.

It is significant to remember that Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Kejriwal’s right hand man from his NGO days, Manish Sisodia has been denied bail by various courts, including the apex court, since his arrest in February 2023. Another AAP worthy, Sanjay Singh, the AAP group leader in the Rajya Sabha, was given conditional bail only a couple of weeks ago. Again, the leader of the so-called South Group in the liquor scam and daughter of former Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandrashekhar Rao, K Kavitha, too is in jail in the case and has been denied bail by multiple courts. The ED claims that over Rs 40 crore taken in bribe to frame a pro-liquor lobby policy was routed through hawala dealers for the AAP’s election campaign in the Goa Assembly poll. ED has also taken in custody a number of hawala dealers and money carriers in the case.

Meanwhile, one of the bail conditions imposed on Kejriwal pertains to his not signing any files. This probably was absolutely unnecessary since he already as a matter of abundant precaution hardly put his signatures on paper, ensuring that his factotums did everything as directed by him. That he did not consider it fit to resign as CM even after being arrested shows how scant he cares for political propriety and constitutional norms.

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