OPN Swati Maliwal
AAP MP Swati Maliwal leaves Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal's residence after recreation of the May 13 incident by Police, in New Delhi Image Credit: ANI

The Aam Aadmi Party, founded by Arvind Kejriwal, was the most successful political start-up in India. It touched stratospheric heights by forming governments in Delhi and Punjab and tried to make inroads into Goa.

As Swati Maliwal, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from AAP and one of Kejriwal’s closest aides from the beginning of AAP, claims she was beaten up by his personal secretary, Bhibhav Kumar, for trying to meet Kejriwal without an appointment.

Maliwal’s claim triggered an incredible series of events. First, Maliwal, who had earlier headed the Delhi Commission on Crimes Against Women, called the police but did not file a First Information Report (FIR).

Then, AAP senior leader Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh, who had just come out of jail, held a press conference where he offered full support to Maliwal, said what she had undergone was horrific, and mentioned that Kejriwal was aware of the matter and action would be taken against Kumar.

This public stand came after he met Maliwal for an hour at her residence. After the press conference, things took a spectacular turn into AAP wonderland. The man against whom Singh had promised action accompanied Kejriwal to Mumbai. Instead of acting against Kumar, Kejriwal appeared to be offering protection and support.

Read more by Swati Chaturvedi

Post-Kejriwal arrest

A livid Maliwal thwarted damage control efforts by filing an FIR and also went for a medical examination at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which revealed that she had bruises on her face and body.

Things took a turn for the worse when AAP revealed videos of the incident, which they claimed did not show Maliwal in any distress but rather abusing Kumar and the plainclothes policemen present there.

Aatishi Marlena, a Delhi government minister, called Maliwal a “BJP agent who had gone to trap Kejriwal and get his conditional bail cancelled.” The gloves were truly off as the two women leaders of AAP squared off against each other.

Now it was a full-blown battle of AAP against AAP, with the BJP rubbing its hands in glee at the embarrassment faced by Kejriwal. The Congress in Delhi was upset it had tied up an alliance with the AAP, which they detested, only to now be confronted by assault gate after the liquor gate, which had sent Kejriwal to prison.

Before this, Manish Sisodia, his confidant and Delhi government number two, Satyendra Jain, another minister, and Sanjay Singh had been jailed.

The crisis post-Kejriwal’s arrest was so severe that his wife, Sunita Kejriwal, became the face of the party, put out televised messages from Kejriwal, and campaigned.

This was the foreground of the scandal, but what triggered the crisis was Kejriwal’s anger at the lack of support from the leaders he had bestowed with rewards like Rajya Sabha seats in his time of need.

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Perceived arrogance

Raghav Chaddha, his firm favourite, disappeared to the United Kingdom for three months for an eye operation. Chaddha remained silent and did not even offer special social media support to Kejriwal. Chaddha returned to India the day after the Maliwal assault and met Kejriwal.

What transpired between the two is not known, but Chaddha is yet to make a public comment. Maliwal also took off for the United States for a long time ostensibly to be with her ill sister.

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh, another Kejriwal pick for the Rajya Sabha, has been silent with not a word of support for the man who gave him a seat in the House of Elders.

Kejriwal is apparently extremely bitter at what he perceives as cowardice and ingratitude of the highest order in his time of need.

Delhi CM wanted to give his counsel, distinguished lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a Rajya Sabha seat as a token of his gratitude. He asked Maliwal to resign. She refused, and the drama followed.

In Chaddha’s case, he has offers from the BJP but seems terrified of prison if he remains in politics. Sections of AAP who don’t like Chaddha’s perceived arrogance call him Kejriwal’s Arun Jaitley.

All this high soap opera-type drama has derailed the AAP campaign for Delhi and affected the opposition as a whole. Congress is upset and have asked Kejriwal to dial down the assault gate scandal.

Kejriwal claimed he and his band of idealists came to change politics. However, Delhi CM now represents everything he once claimed to detest.