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Kejriwal clutches at jail straw
Mistake to have quit: Ex-CM

New Delhi, May 21: Arvind Kejriwal today refused an innocuous bail bond in a defamation case by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari and landed in Tihar jail, the act seen as a desperate move to shore up his depleted political stock.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) boss was sent to prison hours after he had apologised to the people of Delhi for quitting as chief minister in January and saying it was a “mistake”.

By evening, the AAP appeared to have won what Kejriwal sought to achieve — dharna politics. AAP leaders and volunteers protested outside Tihar and fought police. Kejriwal was back on TV channels.

The chain of events was set off when Kejriwal appeared in court over the defamation case in which he had dubbed Gadkari “corrupt”. “I am fighting against corruption. I will not seek bail as I haven’t done anything wrong,” Kejriwal told magistrate Gomati Manocha when he was asked to file a bail bond of Rs 10,000 and walk free.

Kejriwal said he was ready to appear at every hearing but would not file a bail bond as it was against his principles. “What is the problem with furnishing a bail bond? It is a process of law,” Manocha said. Congress leader Manish Tewari was let off in the same case recently, after he apologised for having called Gadkari “corrupt”.

The magistrate then tried to nudge Kejriwal into complying by invoking his party’s name and professed ideal. “You represent the Aam Aadmi Party. I request you to behave as an aam aadmi (common man),” Manocha said.

Kejriwal’s counsel argued that in similar defamation cases earlier, the court had accepted undertakings by the AAP leader and granted bail. But Gadkari’s lawyer opposed the contention, after which the magistrate sent Kejriwal to judicial custody till Friday.

The AAP termed the decision “erroneous” and said there was no provision in the law which made it mandatory for a defendant in a defamation case to furnish a bail bond when he was willing to remain present in hearings.

“People who resort to corruption are sitting in their drawing rooms preparing to become ministers. We who are fighting against the corrupt are being beaten up by the police and put in jail,” Kejriwal, who lost the Lok Sabha election from Varanasi to Narendra Modi, told supporters as he was led into Tihar.

Senior AAP leaders were present but there weren’t enough volunteers and the police managed to clear them without much trouble — a contrast with the cops’ inaction as Kejriwal led chaotic protests as chief minister near Parliament this January.

Kejriwal has been lodged in the same Tihar cell where former mentor Anna Hazare was kept after his arrest during the Lokpal movement in 2011. There is no television in the ward but Kejriwal will get newspapers to read.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal met his Delhi MLAs, many of whom said the AAP should try to form a government again as a way to make amends for having resigned.

But Kejriwal ruled it out. “I apologise to the people of Delhi. We made a mistake by resigning. We left for our principles. I did not know people will misinterpret it.”

Only yesterday, Kejriwal had requested Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung to keep the Assembly under suspended animation — he had been opposing this before and seeking dissolution of the House — apparently hoping he could explore the possibility of government formation. But with the Congress refusing to back the AAP, like it did last time, Kejriwal seemed to have realised elections were the only way out. AAP leaders, however, fear the Modi wave in the polls likely later this year.