India Today - - INSIDE - —Shougat Das­gupta

No respite for the em­bat­tled Arvind Ke­jri­wal. Hav­ing some­how wres­tled a lid onto one bub­bling, hiss­ing pot—Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) found­ing member Ku­mar Vish­was’s emo­tional crit­i­cism of the Delhi chief min­is­ter, in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions of turn­ing a blind eye to the cor­rup­tion of favoured col­leagues—Ke­jri­wal missed dis­as­ter brew­ing on an­other burner. Kapil Mishra, an ally of Vish­was, ac­cused Ke­jri­wal of be­ing per­son­ally cor­rupt. AAP had sacked water min­is­ter Mishra for “poor per­for­mance”, ac­cord­ing to deputy chief min­is­ter Man­ish Siso­dia. In re­sponse, Mishra al­leged he had seen Satyen­dar Jain, a fel­low cabi­net min­is­ter with sev­eral es­sen­tial port­fo­lios, hand­ing Ke­jri­wal Rs 2 crore at the lat­ter’s home on May 5.

“There is a limit to ly­ing,” Jain said in re­sponse, claim­ing he wasn’t even in Ke­jri­wal’s house on the date in ques­tion and that he would be tak­ing Mishra to court. Mishra, mean­while, posted an ex­tra­or­di­nary open let­ter to Ke­jri­wal on Twit­ter. “I am go­ing to file an FIR against you to­day,” he wrote, in Hindi. “My heart is heavy... I am writ­ing this let­ter to seek your bless­ing be­fore go­ing to fight my life’s biggest bat­tle against you.” Now sus­pended from AAP, Mishra has a fu­ture writ­ing di­a­logue for Bol­ly­wood pot­boil­ers.

Ke­jri­wal re­sponded to the ac­cu­sa­tions—in­clud­ing talk of a deal for a Rs 50 crore farm­house for his broth­erin-law—with un­char­ac­ter­is­tic si­lence. His wife, in­stead, came out swing­ing, tweet­ing her dis­gust at “stupid” Mishra’s re­lent­less “scripted” at­tack on her broth­erin-law. In a grim turn, said rel­a­tive, 60-year-old Suren­dra Ku­mar Bansal, died just hours be­fore Mishra made his sen­sa­tional claims. Ke­jri­wal re­strained him­self— sus­pi­ciously, ar­gued some com­men­ta­tors—to a tweet, and later, a brief de­nial. Mishra, with much fan­fare, went to the CBI, fil­ing three sep­a­rate FIRs against Ke­jri­wal and other AAP lead­ers. Asked for a re­sponse, AAP spokesman Ashutosh sent an in­cred­u­lous text mes­sage: “No one can doubt Ke­jri­wal’s hon­esty. Even his op­po­nents would swear by him on this.” That ev­i­dently did not in­clude Ajay Maken and Manoj Ti­wari, the re­spec­tive lead­ers of the Delhi Congress and BJP, both of whom have called for Ke­jri­wal’s res­ig­na­tion.

For the voter, it must seem scarcely be­liev­able that Ke­jri­wal would have been so reck­less, given his anti-cor­rup­tion plat­form. In­deed, the party has been crit­i­cised for hav­ing no ideas and no ide­ol­ogy other than a com­mit­ment to hon­est gov­er­nance. If so, how can the AAP pos­si­bly sur­vive the mud­dy­ing of that rep­u­ta­tion?

Af­ter the ini­tially muted, and per­haps stunned, re­sponse to Mishra’s ac­cu­sa­tions, AAP swung back into bel­liger­ent form, stag­ing a hammy ‘hack­ing’ of an ‘EVM’ ma­chine in the Delhi assem­bly. What­ever the sub­stance be­hind the al­le­ga­tions of EVM tam­per­ing, it came off as an am­a­teur di­ver­sion­ary tac­tic. And AAP mak­ing a spec­ta­cle of it­self no longer elic­its more from the pub­lic than an eye roll.

Ke­jri­wal re­sponded to the ac­cu­sa­tions with un­char­ac­ter­is­tic si­lence

TURN ABOUT Arvind Ke­jri­wal leaves the Delhi assem­bly af­ter at­tend­ing a spe­cial ses­sion on May 9

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