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Political Bawaal

Why did Arvind Kejriwal apologise to Bikram Singh Majithia now?



The apology by Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal to former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia as the result of a series of closed-door meetings between AAP and SAD leaders in New Delhi and Chandigarh.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal during the budget session at Delhi Vidhan Sabha in New Delhi, on March 16, 2018.

The apology by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia was not a sudden development, a senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has claimed.

It was the result of a series of closed-door meetings between AAP and SAD leaders in New Delhi and Chandigarh, said the Punjab leader who does not want to be named but was part of the behind-the-scenes talks.

Among the AAP leaders involved in the informal parleys was Ashish Khetan, who is said to have made frequent trips to Chandigarh but kept his visits under wraps, claims the SAD leader.

Other than Kejriwal and Majithia, leaders of both parties met at least four times, he said.

Among those who played a key role in bringing the AAP leaders to the negotiation table were Akali leaders based in Delhi, including Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who was elected to the Delhi assembly on Bharatiya Janata Party ticket in the 2017 bypoll. Sirsa is also the general secretary of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC). When contacted, Sirsa refused to comment on his role in the talks.

An AAP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said the apology from Kejriwal was “stagemanaged” and leaders of both AAP and SAD met several times before that.

Hindustan Times has also learnt that SAD leaders managed to convince their AAP counterparts that conviction in this case was certain. AAP’s Khetan went to Amritsar with his and Kejriwal’s apology letters to be given in the court, claimed the SAD leader. However, Khetan was not available for comments.

AAP’s former head of the legal cell Himmat Singh Shergill said something had transpired behind the scenes leading to the apology and he would take it up with Kejriwal as to why he took this drastic step.

The case

A criminal defamation suit was filed by Majithia against AAP leaders Kejriwal, Khetan and Sanjay Singh on 20 May 2016. All the three secured bail and offered to face trial, stating they stood by the allegations made by them.

The defamation suit pertains to statements made on three occasions — the Maghi rally on January 14, 2016 addressed by AAP leaders, including Kejriwal; street-corner meetings by Kejriwal in Amritsar on February 27, 2016 and a press conference at the Chandigarh press club by Khetan and Sanjay Singh on March 30, 2016, in which allegations about Majithia’s involvement in the drug trade were levelled.

According to Majithia’s counsel Damanbir Sobti, the case was at the last stage now. “The case was at the post-charges evidence stage as the charges were already framed. Out of four witnesses, two were cross-examined,” he said.

After the apology letters from Kejriwal and Khetan, Majithia has withdrawn the defamation suit against them, but the case against Sanjay Singh continues and the next hearing is on April 2. Singh is facing a similar case in a Ludhiana court too.

Shergill, who represents Singh in the two cases, said that his client would not seek apology and would contest the case.