The not so honourable Chief Minister of Delhi, Shri Arvind Kejriwal, had thirty three defamation suits filed against him by different individuals for damaging their reputation based on lies and unsupported statements. In fact making such statements was an important part of his political rhetoric in the years before he came to power. From politicians to businessmen he spared none. He came on the political scene on the strength of a platform based on honesty, integrity and promise of giving full weightage to will of the people (voters). So when he made corruption or criminal or other charges against others, the public believed him. This public faith catapulted him to main stage politics in a very short term apart from playing an important role in giving him and his party an unprecedented majority to bring them to power in Delhi.
Some of the defamation cases filed against Mr Kejriwal seem to have reached a critical point where he realised that unless he backtracks his claims he may be in serious trouble. Therefore he has come up with a series of apologies in writing and also put them in public domain. He has tendered apologies in letters addressed to Mr Bikram Singh Majithia of Akali Dal in Punjab, Mr Kapil Sibal’s son and Mr Nitin Gadkari of BJP who have accepted the same. The courts have since dropped the charges against him. It is anybody’s guess if Mr Kejriwal will do likewise for the other thirty cases. In today’s digital world of cut or copy and paste, it is a simple matter to write another thirty similar letters. The question is can a public figure get away with mere apology letters to concerned individuals?
Mr Kejriwal’s false, misleading and unsupported statements against known political leaders and businessmen as part of his political rhetoric have to be seen from two different perspectives. Firstly their impact on individuals targeted and secondly on the hundreds of thousand voters whose votes he was seeking. The impact on individual’s prestige, honour and public perception is something that the individual concerned has to decide. In this case the fact that as many as thirty three persons filed defamation suits indicates that they did take umbrage to the statements. If they now wish to retract the cases based on Mr Kejriwal’s apology, the choice rests with them.
However the second perspective where public is involved is an altogether different matter. Without a doubt Mr Kejriwal mislead the voters with false acquisitions on others to further his public image, promote his party’s political interests and to run down his rivals. By resorting to a well planned campaign of false, mischievous and baseless statements against political rivals and others he misled the voters that in turn translated into votes in favour of his party and himself. If this be so then it has to be viewed as serious criminal intent to mislead voters. Therefore the proffered apology to an individual cannot condone the betrayal of trust of voters. In short he has duped the voters time and again for selfish political motives. Therefore this has to be seen as a serious offence if we are really a democratic nation. In a democracy a voter is supreme. Misleading or influencing voters by feeding them with deliberate falsehoods has to be viewed as a matter of grave concern. These charges cannot be retracted or condoned based on apology letters to individuals.
It is no secret that this malady of spreading baseless allegations was not restricted to Mr Kejriwal alone. Other leaders from his party took cue from him and were also guilty of same criminal intent to dupe the voter. Today some of his own party leaders too feel cheated. As leader of his party it was Mr Kejriwal’s responsibility to ensure that reputations and characters of rivals or others were not maligned unnecessarily with baseless statements with the intent of damaging their reputations in public eyes. It is obvious he not only failed in his duty as a leader but is also guilty of having spearheaded this vicious campaign to seek political advantage by deliberately misleading and fooling the voters. Can the courts overlook this criminal intent and just wait in the hope that the voter will punish him next time around.
In his apology letter Mr Kejriwal ends by stating ‘I suggest we should put our energy to serve the people of this country, in the spirit of mutual respect’. The point here is was he serving the people of the country when he spearheaded a well planned campaign to mislead the voters? Has the fear of being convicted by courts led him to capitulate and apologise? Or has he reached a settlement for some consideration with some individuals with a public apology being his part of the bargain? Can one rule out the possibility of Mr Kejriwal once again duping the voters by seeking their sympathy (and playing the victim card) now that the courts have taken serious note of his misconduct? Sorry Mr Kejriwal your apology stinks. May be it is time for filing a public interest litigation against Mr Arvind Kejriwal. After all the biggest loser in this whole drama is the AAM ADMI.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.