New Delhi, Jan 11: The first “Janata Darbar” of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet Saturday ended in chaos after thousands thronged the venue, forcing the AAP leader to leave the scene to avoid a possible stampede.
The 45-year-old Kejriwal later promised a better show and soon. He said it could be held in a stadium.
An estimated 5,000 people poured into the open space outside the Delhi Secretariat since early morning, eager to pour out their woes to Kejriwal and his ministers who took oath Dec 28.
But the crowds were so overwhelming that Kejriwal, an activist-turned-politician, retreated to his room in about 45 minutes at the suggestion of Delhi Police.
“Next time, we will be more prepared and may hold the ‘Janata Darbar’ at a stadium,” he said, and apologized to the people for not addressing all their problems.
The chief minister also apologized for the poor arrangements. According to him, such was the rush that some over-enthusiastic complainants climbed on his desk and the chairs around him.
Some people broke the barricades. “If I had not left the place, there was a possibility of a stampede. Everybody wanted to meet me,” he said, admitting he didn’t anticipate such crowds.
“We will streamline the system… We will improve the system,” he told reporters.
Asked if he was in a seeming hurry to show results, Kejriwal replied: “We are in a hurry to save the country. If we don’t do that, the country will not change.”
Kejriwal, who heads a minority Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, had announced a regular “Janata Darbar” – with his presence on Saturdays – so that people feel closer to the administration.
Even after Kejriwal went back to his chamber, three of his six ministers — Somnath Bharti, Rakhi Birla and Saurabh Bhardwaj — continued to listen to people’s grievances and accept representations.
While admitting the poor arrangements, Law Minister Bharti said the “Janata Darbar” should not be discontinued. He said they had not expected such a huge crowd.
“Most complaints were against the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) and Delhi Police. If these departments start working efficiently, we won’t need these durbars,” Bharti told IANS.
Sonu Sharma, 34, said he came to the “Janata Darbar” to complain against a power distribution company which he told IANS had fined him Rs 2.96 lakh for alleged power theft.
Pooja Singh, another resident, felt the next “Janata Darbar” should be held at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan where Kejriwal and his ministers took oath.
Those gathered at the venue included a large number of government employees — including teachers and Delhi Transport Corp staff — who are on contract and want assured employment.
Kejriwal promised to get in touch with the concerned government departments. “We will try to sort out this problem within a month.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and former police officer Kiran Bedi slammed Kejriwal.
“For God’s sake, Arvind and Team, Secretariats are not run from rooftops! Please take time to listen/absorb! And then take considered decisions!” Bedi wrote on Twitter.
Bedi and Kejriwal were part of the anti-corruption campaign of activist Anna Hazare in 2011. But they have fallen out since then.
BJP’s Delhi unit president Vijay Goel said the “Janata Darbar” was called Saturday with an eye on the next election, not for people’s welfare.