Arvind Kejriwal was “positive” towards an official request for sanctioning prosecution of former JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar in the 2016 sedition case, say highly placed sources aware of issues discussed at a meeting between the Delhi chief minister and Union home minister Amit Shah on February 19.
The Delhi government’s home department was requested to grant permission to prosecute Kanhaiya who along with several more students, including Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, was accused of sedition after “anti-India” slogans were allegedly shouted during a protest in JNU in 2016. Delhi Police had filed a charge-sheet in the case in January last year. Awaiting permission for prosecution, police recently wrote to the Delhi government, reminding them of the pending request.
Nudged by Shah, the Delhi CM is believed to have acquiesced to the request, the sources claim.
Moreover, a Delhi Court directed the Kejriwal government on February 19 to file a status report in the case by April 3.
Sources say there is likely to be better synergy between the Delhi government and the Centre this time, with the BJP realising that personal attacks on Kejriwal have turned counter-productive. There is a feeling that AAP—which won 62 of 70 seats in the recent Delhi polls—managed to convince voters that the Centre was putting roadblocks in the capital city’s development.
Kejriwal had taken measured steps in the run-up to the assembly polls, refusing to wade into any controversial or communal issue raised by the BJP. He refused to take sides in the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests too, simply passing the buck to Delhi Police that reports to Shah’s home ministry.
The Kanhaiya case has become a polarising issue with his supporters asserting that he has been falsely charged with sedition and called anti-national. The Kejriwal government’s refusal to give sanction to prosecute Kanhaiya was seen as a tacit support to Kanhaiya, who had contested the 2019 parliamentary elections as a CPI candidate for Begusarai, Bihar.
He lost by over four lakh votes, but emerged as a symbol of free speech and has been drawing huge crowds in Bihar where assembly polls are due in October this year. He is likely to be a key element in the political realignment that is taking shape to take on the Nitish Kumar-led BJP-JD(U) combine.