New Delhi, Jan 20: In a scene unprecedented in the annals of democracy, Delhi’s ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP) Monday laid siege to an important arterial avenue of the capital as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in power for three weeks, declared he was an “anarchist” and vowed to continue protests till his government is given control over Delhi Police.
Directly confronting the federal government and unfazed by the criticism for resorting to activism, Kejriwal, sitting close to the seat of power in the Indian capital, thundered: “Yes, I am an anarchist.
Kejriwal even asked “honest” policemen to take leave and join him in his street protest at Rail Bhavan that, he warned, could extend to 10 long days in the bitter cold. He said he would run the city government from the protest site. The siege, happening five days before the Jan 26 Republic Day parade in which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the chief guest, put the central government in a quandary as the Congress party supports the AAP government from outside.
His action was roundly criticised by other political parties, including the main opposition BJP, whose leader Arun Jaitley wondered “did the AAP form the government to wreck the system from within.”
Kejriwal and his largely young, white-cap wearing army of chanting and clapping supporters, appeared headed for a long stand-off with the authorities. There were scuffles between the AAP supporters and police personnel, who wanted Kejriwal and his men to move to Jantar Mantar area further downtown, where demonstrations normally take place.
The atmosphere was tense at times when AAP supporters shouted slogans against the police. Delhi Transport Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said he was detained by the police, a charge that was denied by officials.
In the morning, defying prohibitory orders, Kejriwal and his six cabinet colleagues tried to reach union Home Minister Sushilkumar Sinde’s office in North Block to demand action against five policemen who did not heed his ministers. But a large posse of policemen and paramilitary stopped the 45-year-old chief minister, an activist-turned-politician, and his team midway.
The chief minister and his group then alighted from their cars and staged the sit-in near the Rail Bhavan, not far from Parliament House.
In no time, after he had addressed the supporters, Kejriwal and his ministers started official work at the protest site – studying and signing files.
Speaking to IANS his secretary Rajendra Kumar said: “I have nothing to do with the protest. I am carrying out the instructions of the CM.” He also said that a Delhi cabinet meeting is scheduled for Tuesday and it may be held at the protest site.
In his impromptu address to his supporters, Kejriwal squarely blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Shinde and the central government for the situation that has led to his protests and appealed people to join him. He said any crisis arising out of the situation, including disturbance in holding the Republic Day parade, will be the responsibility of the central government.
Home Minister Shinde, who supervises Delhi Police, rejected his demand of police control, saying police could not be put under the city government as Delhi was the national capital. He also asked Kejriwal to call off his protest keeping in mind the stature of the chief minister’s office.
Shinde also announced that Delhi’s Lt Governor Najeeb Jung had ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter. An angry Kejriwal rejected Shinde’s plea.
By evening, many volunteers carrying durries and mats to spend the night on sat near the protest site in small groups, waved the Indian national flags and sang devotional songs.
The unprecedented protest forced Delhi Metro to shut four major stations, causing inconvenience to thousands of commuters. The Metro also announced that two metro stations that lead to Rail Bhavan will be closed Tuesday too.
Slamming Kejriwal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari charged the chief minister and his ministers with “constitutional anarchy” and “gimmickry”.
The face-off between Delhi Police and the three-week-old Delhi government erupted after Delhi’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti accused some officers of not taking action against an alleged sex-and-drug racket involving some Ugandan nationals.
The issue escalated into a near diplomatic row after a group of Ugandans and Nigerians accused Bharti and AAP volunteers of misbehaviour.
Kejriwal vehemently defended Bharti.