New Delhi, Feb. 1: Union law minister Kapil Sibal today challenged Arvind Kejriwal to prove he was corrupt and threatened legal action if the Aam Aadmi Party leader did not offer a public apology within two days.
A furious Sibal, who unlike several other senior leaders refused to ignore Kejriwal’s list of “beimaan” (dishonest) politicians, said the Delhi chief minister should step down if he failed to prove the allegation.
“I was surprised that a person who is holding the post of chief minister has levelled such an allegation. His intentions appear to be mala fide; he would not have levelled such baseless allegations. I give him two days to present proof of my corruption. If he proves I am corrupt, I will quit politics, otherwise he should resign,” Sibal, a top lawyer, said, a day after Kejriwal described him as “corrupt”.
“I have already warned him and I say it today also,” Sibal added. “No one has so far made allegations against me about my public life. I have been a minister and worked in several institutions. There are no complaints against me. There is no FIR. If he is able to prove that I have been convicted by a court in a corruption case, I will not only resign as minister, but also quit active politics. I will also take him to court for defamation.”
Kejriwal had yesterday publicly named 27 politicians as “beimaan”, before adding Rahul Gandhi and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to the list on the demand of party activists.
Among the others named were Union ministers P. Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid and Sushil Kumar Shinde, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP boss Mayawati, former BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Gadkari’s party colleague Ananth Kumar. By evening, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh had included the names of Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi too to take the number to 31.
The AAP did not level any specific charge, nor did it furnish proof to back up its allegations.
This was, however, not the first time that Kejriwal had targeted Sibal, a favourite punching bag for the AAP leader and his colleagues during the Lokpal movement. All the top ministers of the UPA government were then described as “cheat”, “thug” or “thief”.
The Congress had yesterday said Kejriwal had no regard for the rule of law but the response did not reflect the anger within the party. Most leaders now rue the support to the AAP to form the government in Delhi but are not airing their opinion in public because Rahul had indicated he had a say in the decision so that the rookie party got a chance to deliver on its promises.
But relations between the two parties are bound to worsen in the coming weeks even as some Congress leaders nurse hopes that the AAP would hurt the BJP’s prospects in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
“The AAP is an urban phenomenon which is largely the BJP’s area of dominance too,” a senior leader argued. “In Delhi, the AAP hurt us because the national capital is primarily urban. They claim to repeat Delhi in Haryana. That will be a more credible test as Haryana has 7,000 villages.”
Ananth Kumar today served a legal notice on Kejriwal for including him in the list of “corrupt”.
The notice, served through the BJP leader’s lawyer, has asked Kejriwal to apologise within three days or face legal action. “I will initiate appropriate civil proceedings against Kejriwal for compensation and appropriate criminal proceedings against him for libel and slander,” PTI quoted Kumar as saying in Bangalore.
Kumar said the allegations were “motivated, baseless and malicious” and he had given Kejriwal three days to apologise for the “slanderous attack on him”.
Yesterday, Gadkari had slapped a notice asking Kejriwal to withdraw his name and tender a public apology within three days or face a defamation suit.