Arvind Kejriwal has had an obsession for issuing over the top allegations against his political adversaries. This special foot-in-the- mouth syndrome dubbed as ‘shoot and scoot politics’ resulted in a monumental backfiring through the months, with around 33 defamation cases against him in the offing. With 2019 in sight, Kejriwal has changed tracks, and seems to be inclined towards out-of-court settlements with respect to these defamation cases. After recently apologizing to SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, Kejriwal has now apologized to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and sought closure in one of the defamation cases.
When Arvind Kejriwal joined politics and established AAP, he had a habit of making unsubstantiated allegations. In the midst of labeling others as corrupt and positioning himself as a political alternative, he blatantly accused many political bigwigs of being involved in corruption. Kejriwal had charged Gadkari of being part of India’s ‘most corrupt list’ in 2014, maligning the latter’s image. As a fallout, Gadkari had filed a defamation suit highlighting the ‘vested political interests of Kejriwal’ and his attempts to gather media attention.
Initially, Kejriwal had displayed great bravado in fighting such defamation cases, but the reversal in fortunes has made him change tracks and attempt to make peace. In an unconditional apology letter to Gadkari, the Delhi chief minister expressed regret for making those statements without verification and appealed to the union minister to take back his case. This has led to a joint application by Nitin Gadkari and Kejriwal, seeking to withdraw the defamation case filed by the union minister.
With another apology letter issued to Amit Sibal in a similar defamation suit, more such apologies are expected to be in the offing. In the beginning of his political career, these allegations and statements had emboldened Kejriwal and had portrayed him as a graft-fighting revolutionary. The far reaching effects of those statements are felt only now, reducing his stature nd exposing him completely.
This flurry of expected apologies will mark a sea change in Kejriwal’s brand of politics. As mentioned above, his attempts to woo the ‘Aam Aadmi’ were hollow and based upon these allegations, which had then raised him on a larger than life corruption-fighting pedestal. He had even moved the Supreme Court to quash the defamation case filed by Gadkari, and had chosen to go to jail for refusing to furnish a bail bond.
Many months down the line, these larger than life antics have given way to practical face-saving solutions. The weight of fighting so many defamation cases has had several adverse effects- it has occupied much of his time, drained his energy and resources and rendered his trademark style a laughing stock. The legal cover provided by the likes of the Bhushans is now missing, as they were ousted from the party. In the wake of these factors, the ability to issue apologies seems to be the only saving grace. In the case of Gadkari, it might not have resulted in much, but in Majithia’s case, it has wrecked the party’s Punjab unit.
Perhaps, issuing apologies might seem practical, but it will come with its own costs. It will affect Kejriwal’s image in showcasing AAP as a political party with credibility. Next time, when Kejriwal will accuse political leaders of graft, it will be very difficult for the electorate and even his own supporters to believe him. This loss of trustworthiness will be etched permanently.
With more apologies expected, the overall outcome of it all will be mixed. On a short term basis, it will help Kejriwal escape the perils of money and legal ramifications. But its long term effects will be many. Internal chaos in AAP units is expected to increase, as seen in Punjab. The disappointments among its supporters will be plenty and Kejriwal’s brand of politics will come to an end. Nevertheless, from a supposed reformer to a political clown, Arvind Kejriwal has come a long and wrong way indeed!