AAP MLA Dinesh Mohaniya's arrest is an audacious display of BJP's double standards

This continuing narrative of action against AAP MLAs raises a fundamental question. Does the Modi government apply the same principles to his own members?

Monobina Gupta June 27, 2016 12:45:15 IST
AAP MLA Dinesh Mohaniya's arrest is an audacious display of BJP's double standards

Without doubt, Arvind Kejriwal is the toughest opponent Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had to deal with in his over two years of governance. Perhaps it’s the frustration of reckoning with the irrepressible Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Chief Minister, who is digging in his heels more and more, that is driving the ruling BJP to desperate measures. The latest act of recklessness was in evidence last Saturday, when a posse of policemen barged into a room where AAP legislator Dinesh Mohaniya was addressing the media. Ignoring Mohaniya’s protests, the policemen arrested the MLA on charges of assault and sexual harassment. The high-handed arrest, even as Mohaniya was addressing a media conference, could not but lend itself to criticism and suspicion—particularly given that the AAP legislator was in any case going to present himself at the police station later that same day.

Criticism of such intemperate actions however is not deterring the BJP from carrying on with what is increasingly appearing to be an agenda focused on political vendetta. Within 24 hours of Mohaniya’s arrest, the police once again on Sunday, detained Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia along with more than sixty AAP legislators. The MLAs were proceeding towards 7, Race Course Road to protest the arrest of their colleague when they were arrested and taken to Parliament police station.

AAP MLA Dinesh Mohaniyas arrest is an audacious display of BJPs double standards

Image courtesy: Twitter/@DineshMohaniya

In the context of such aggression from the ruling BJP, Kejriwal’s tweet – “Modi declares emergency in Delhi. Arresting, raiding, terrorizing, filing false cases against all those whom Delhi elected” – even though dramatic in itself, does not ring entirely hollow. Emergency or not, one thing is clear: the Modi government is pulling out all stops to paint the AAP regime in Delhi into a corner. Besides, this is not the first time that the Delhi police (under the Union Home Ministry) has treated AAP legislators shoddily. Recall the sudden arrest of former AAP law minister Jitender Singh Tomar in June 2015 while he was addressing his constituency members in West Delhi. Tomar had been charged with furnishing fake educational degrees. Then as now, the AAP had raised serious objections to the arrogant manner of Tomar’s arrest without prior notice being served to him.

This continuing narrative of punitive action against AAP MLAs raises a fundamental question. It isn’t news that our politicians—many of them members of Parliament and legislators—are facing serious criminal charges, including rape and murder. But does the Modi government apply the same principles of justice and enforce the law when its own members in positions of power are implicated in such serious crimes?

Consider for example, the case of Nihalchand Meghwal, a BJP MP and a minister in the central government. The Rajasthan MP, along with 16 others, was accused of raping a real estate agent’s wife. An FIR was registered against Meghwal and others in 2011. The Jaipur police closed the case after a year, accusing the survivor of fabricating the rape charge. The police also urged the court hearing the matter in Jaipur to close the case. However, heeding the woman’s repeated appeals, a Jaipur court finally decided to consider her plea in 2014. By then Meghwal was a minister in the BJP government. The survivor appealed to the Prime Minister saying, “Narendra Modi is a good person. He shouldn’t have ministers like Nihalchand Meghwal with him.”

However, after the court asked Meghwal and the other accused to explain why it should not re-open the case, the minister went “missing” for a while. The BJP government and the Rajasthan police looked the other way. The Modi government stoutly defended Meghwal, alleging that the rape charge was politically motivated. Despite repeated calls for his removal, the government retained Meghwal in the cabinet. He was merely shifted from the ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to Panchayati Raj. Till date, Meghwal continues to be part of Modi’s cabinet.

And let us not forget the case of BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj, an acolyte of Kalyan Singh, who is implicated on murder and rape charges. But the list of tainted MPs goes way beyond these two. In May 2014, two non-governmental organisations, National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR,) drew the Prime Minister’s attention to his party MPs with criminal charges against them. In a statement, the organisations said: “In BJP alone, 98 (35 percent) out of 281 MPs analysed by NEW & ADR have self-declared criminal cases, while 63 (22 percent) have self-declared serious criminal cases like murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, dacoity etc.” The NEW and ADR reminded Modi of the commitments he had made to the electorate during his 2014 election campaign to cleanse politics of criminal elements, and fast track cases against tainted politicians.

More than two years later, we are yet to witness any government move in that direction. What we are however witnessing is an audacious display of double standards – a trait that not just the BJP, but every political party is guilty of. For the time being, the AAP seems to be staring down the barrel of this gun.

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