With elections looking inevitable in the Capital, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal is back to doing what he does best: Grabbing headlines.
A Delhi court sent Kejriwal to two-day judicial custody on Wednesday in a defamation case filed by former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari after he refused to furnish bail of Rs. 10,000, hours after declaring that the party was ready for fresh elections in the Capital. Kejriwal had allegedly included Gadkari in a list of politicians he branded the country’s most corrupt.
The AAP leader, who was sent to Tihar, earlier in the day apologised for resigning as the Delhi CM within 49 days and asked people to give the party a decisive mandate.
With their leader in Tihar, party members and AAP supporters gathered outside the high-security jail in the evening to protest the arrest and clashed with the police. Section 144 was imposed in the area, barring assembly of more than 10 people.
Reinforcements were rushed to disperse the crowd and around 60 people, including Yogendra Yadav, detained.
The evening’s “road show” came after the morning court-room drama. At around 10am as the case was called by metropolitan magistrate Gomati Manocha, Kejriwal, accompanied by his advocate and party colleague Prashant Bhushan, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, and Ashutosh, said he didn’t want bail.
“This is my principle that when I have not done anything wrong, I will not seek bail. I’m ready to go to jail,” he said.
A lawyer in Gadkari’s team yelled that the AAP leader be sent to jail. Amid the din, the judge retired to her chambers. When the court reconvened, Bhushan said the AAP leader would not furnish a personal bond.
The Aam Aadmi Party leader, the court said, was not behaving quite like an aam aadmi. “Why do you want special treatment? If you’re coming on behalf of aam aadmi, behave like one,” Manocha said.
After hearing both the sides, the court reserved order till 4pm when it asked Kejriwal if he would, at least, furnish a personal bond of Rs. 10,000. But he refused. “Take him into custody,” she ordered.
The case will now be heard on May 23 and if he repeats his Wednesday’s stance, Kejriwal will be sent back to Tihar for two more weeks. The former Delhi CM, who has a number of defamation cases pending against him, faces two years in jail, if convicted.
Kejriwal has been lodged in Jail 4 and will be in the cell that his erstwhile mentor Anna Hazare was kept during the 2011 lokpal stir.
Kejriwal is looking to revive AAP’s political fortunes that were dealt a blow in the Lok Sabha polls. Though the party fought 400 seats, it managed to win just four, drawing a blank in Delhi months after making a stunning poll debut in state elections. Kejriwal lost to Narendra Modi in UP’s Varanasi.