Days after his apology to former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia plunged the AAP into chaos, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Monday “expressed regret” to Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and apologised to Amit Sibal, the son of former Union minister Kapil Sibal. Sources in the AAP said that Kejriwal and the party would make similar efforts to try and end at least 20 more cases.
Following the apologies Monday, the parties involved filed joint applications in court seeking the withdrawal of the cases, which led to acquittals in both.
As the move drew sharp criticism again, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia argued that the party was not interested in an “ego fight”. “If someone is hurt by our remarks, we will apologise. We will not make it a fight of ego. We are here to work for people. We have not spared time for court, we have spared time for us so that we could fight for people.”
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Saurabh Bhardwaj, AAP spokesperson, told The Indian Express, “We will try to sort out all possible legal cases at the earliest”.
Sources said the party’s strategy hinges on the courts taking note even if those with cases against Kejriwal might not agree to “amicably dispose the cases”. A source said, “There will be those who will not want to let go of the case that they have filed and will insist on fighting it. But some might. The party’s strategy is to reach out to each and every one. Even if the petitioner does not agree, we hope that the courts will take into account that a sitting Chief Minister is willing to apologise.”
Rishikesh Yadav, AAP Legal Cell said, “There are about 20 cases pending against Arvind Kejriwal and over 30 litigations across different courts.”
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Kejriwal’s apology to Majithia had drawn flak from the party’s Punjab unit and led to the resignations of its Punjab president Bhagwant Mann and co-president Aman Arora. The state unit, on the verge of breaking away, was cajoled back to the party fold after 10 of the 20 Punjab AAP MLAs met Kejriwal and Sisodia on Sunday and defended the “tactical move”.
During that meeting Kejriwal, sources said, had articulated the party’s view that the BJP government was using four different fronts to attack and eventually weaken the party: “Raids and probes on trumped up charges”, “the threat of a constitutional crisis”, “not allowing governance to take place by creating obstacles” and finally the legal threat of “frivolous but draining cases across the country”.
Kejriwal Monday wrote to Gadkari expressing “regret” – not an apology according to party leaders – over statements he had made. He had named Gadkari in the AAP’s list of “India’s most corrupt” on January 31, 2014. In his letter, dated March 16, he said, “I made certain statements, without regard to its verifiability, which seem to have hurt you and therefore you have filed a defamation case against me. I have nothing personal against you. I regret the same.”
On Monday, Kejriwal and Gadkari submitted a joint application before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal seeking the withdrawal of the defamation case.
Kejriwal and Sisodia also apologised to Amit Sibal for making “unfounded allegations”. The letter, dated March 18, said, “I have learnt that the allegations I made against you and your father at the press conference were unfounded. I hereby withdraw all my statements and allegations made against you and your father and apologise for the same. The damage caused to your esteem, the hurt caused to your family, friends and well-wishers and the loss caused to you is regretted.”
On May 15, 2013, Kejriwal had alleged conflict of interested on the part of Amit, after he appeared in court for a telecom firm while his father was communications minister. After the apology letter, Sibal and the AAP leaders filed a joint application in the court seeking withdrawal of the case filed in 2013.
Besides Kejriwal and Sisodia, Amit had also named former AAP members Prashant Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi as accused in the case.