It took Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal just 15 minutes to get bail in the defamation case filed by Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia but the city was prisoner to their invading supporters for hours on Friday.
Commandeered by senior leaders and a couple of ministers, the Akali crowd packed the main entrance to the court so tightly that even Majithia struggled to get in and Kejriwal had to be ushered through the backdoor. Police couldn’t hold the rampaging Akalis even a few metres, when they had no trouble holding the AAP workers a kilometre from the judicial complex, at Circuit House, where Kejriwal had made the night halt.
Both Akalis and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers occupied streets outside the court complex. As soon as Kejriwal secured bail, slogans rang out there against Majithia and drug menace. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) camp, pitched there since 8.30am, responded with slogans accusing Kejriwal of defaming Punjabis.
It was a placard war. “Punjab di Jawani nu badnam karoge taan rokange, bani da niradar karoge te thokange (If you defame Punjab’s youth, we’ll stop you, if you disrespect Sikh scripture, we’ll batter you),” threatened Akali signs. The AAP banners played up Kejriwal’s statement: “Mein ik vaar nahi hazaar vaar kahanga, Majithia chitte da taskar hai (I’ll say it not once but a thousand times, Majithia is a drug smuggler).”
Police let the crowd build up outside the court, not expecting it to get so big. With an Akali-AAP clash first thing to avoid, police commissioner Amar Singh Chahal led Kejriwal into the court under his protection. After 15 minutes, the AAP leader came out and was whisked away amid tight security. “The court has granted bail to Kejriwal and (party colleague) Sanjay Singh and set the next hearing for October 15,” said senior lawyer and AAP leader HS Phoolka. “(Co-accused) Ashish Khetan did not appear today but he will be here at next hearing.”
Majithia has sued the three AAP leaders for accusing him of running Punjab’s drug trade. State elections are due next year, and the AAP is a major challenger to the ruling Akali-BJP combine.