"Shameless": Nirmala Sitharaman Slams Arvind Kejriwal In Swati Maliwal Row

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, the only major opposition leader to have commented so far, said, "I always stand with women, irrespective of which party they belong to."

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressed a presser at the BJP's Delhi HQ.

New Delhi:

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday joined the ranks of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders targeting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the Swati Maliwal assault row.

Red-flagging the fact the alleged assault took place inside Mr Kejriwal's home - while Ms Maliwal was waiting to meet him - Ms Sitharaman said, "There cannot be any whataboutery. This happened inside Arvind Kejriwal's residence while he was present (and) by his right-hand man".

She called on the Aam Aadmi Party boss, who has not yet commented, to apologise, and noted he had been spotted "shamelessly moving around with Bibhav Kumar (the Chief Minister's aide, who has been accused of the assault)" at a joint opposition press conference in Lucknow this week.

Ms Sitharaman also referred to earlier cases of AAP leaders attacking women.

She referred to Somnath Bharti, the party's candidate for the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, who had earlier been accused of assaulting his pregnant wife, and pointed out the Congress' top leaders - the Gandhi family - would be expected to vote for him given the two parties have allied for this election.

"Delhi is doubting the Chief Minister's claims over safety of women... they are watching," Ms Sitharaman declared, "Chief Minister Kejriwal is anti-women... is supporting assault against a woman."

She also criticised the AAP - which has not yet responded - for not fielding a woman in any of Delhi's seven Lok Sabha seats.

A police case was filed against Bibhav Kumar late Thursday. This was hours after a Delhi Police team spoke to Ms Maliwal at her residence; she had been incommunicado since the assault on Monday.

READ | "Slapped 7-8 Times, Kicked In Chest, Stomach": Swati Maliwal In FIR

Mr Kumar - whom Ms Maliwal has accused of slapping her seven times and kicking her in the chest and stomach - faces multiple charges, including assault, criminal intimidation, and outraging a woman's modesty.

He also received a summons from the National Commission of Women.

Meanwhile, Ms Maliwal, in her first public comment since the assault, said on X (formerly Twitter), "What happened to me was very bad... the last few days have been very difficult."

READ | "What Happened To Me Was Very Bad": Swati Maliwal On Assault Row

Swati Maliwal - an AAP Rajya Sabha MP and formerly the Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women - was allegedly assaulted by Mr Kumar at the Chief Minister's residence on Monday. According to senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh - who confirmed the "distressing incident" 24 hours later - Mr Kumar "misbehaved" with her, and Arvind Kejriwal had issued orders to take strict action in this matter.

The police have confirmed they received two calls from an unknown person within Arvind Kejriwal's residence - but from a phone number registered to Ms Maliwal - alerting them to the harassment.

READ | Kejriwal Office Staffer "Misbehaved" With Swati Maliwal: AAP Leader

Hours later she appeared at a police station but left without filing a complaint.

The alleged attack has led to the BJP unleashing a flood of counter-attacks against Mr Kejriwal, who was released on bail last week - so he might campaign in the ongoing general election - after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in March in the liquor policy case.

The BJP has said Mr Kejriwal - who faces fresh demands to resign - is shielding his aide. Those accusations gathered steam Thursday after he seemed to avoid reporters' questions on this topic.

READ | Priyanka Gandhi's Guarded Response On Swati Maliwal Assault Case

Meanwhile, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the only major opposition leader to have commented so far, said, "I always stand with women, irrespective of which party they belong to."

However, she then left further action to be taken to the discretion of the AAP.

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