Why Arvind Kejriwal should welcome the arrest warrant against him
Amidst a flurry of attacks on the Aam Aadmi Party by the BJP and its agents in various forms, comes an upset that the Arvind Kejriwal-led party can actually use to its advantage.
A BJP leader in Assam had filed a defamation case against Kejriwal in a lower court in December 2016, complaining against one of his tweets about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's educational qualification. That court has now summoned the Delhi Chief Minister, issuing an arrest warrant in his name and requiring him to appear on 8 May.
The magistrate has issued a warrant because Kejriwal had failed to appear before the court when he was summoned the first time on 30 January.
While it is a case of over-zealousness on the part of the BJP leader behind the case, Surjya Rongphar, Kejriwal now has an opportunity to turn the tables on the original issue. It was the Prime Minister's Office itself that had sparked the controversy in the first place in July 2015, by rejecting an RTI request for Modi's educational qualifications.
The Election Commission, too, refused to provide these details and, on queue, the Delhi and Gujarat Universities, where Modi apparently got his degrees from, also turned the queries down. It was only when the apex RTI body in the country, the CIC, took over that the query received some currency.
In April 2016, the CIC ordered the PMO to disclose the details. Top BJP leaders appeared at a press release and waved Modi's degree certificates, which failed to put the lid on the issue. Discrepancies were subsequently pointed out and soon, Delhi University received another RTI request asking for details of all students who had graduated in 1978, the purported year of Modi's graduation.
The CIC wanted this list out and had ordered DU to make it public, but the latter is yet to comply. (DU later moved the Delhi High Court against the CIC order and the court ordered a stay. The matter will be heard next on 27 April.)
In fact, the apex body appears to have had second thoughts about it since then. In January, the CIC took away the charge of the HRD Ministry from Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu, who had ordered DU to allow inspection of all records of 1978.
Amidst what looks like a concerted effort by several agencies to conceal information on the PM's degrees, Kejriwal can view this court case as god-sent. If he appears in the Assam court and defends his claim, it is quite possible that the court itself may order the complainant to produce Modi's degrees to prove that the PM has been defamed. Even if the court doesn't, Kejriwal could ask the complainant to do so to defend his stand.
In either case, this court case has the potential to dig out what has so far been very fiercely and unfairly concealed.
Additionally, it will be in the PMO's interest to intervene in the situation even before that happens and salvage its image. It will be wonderful to see the PM himself speak out on the issue and put out a full disclosure. The longer this issue lingers, the deeper the dent it will cause to the PM's image.