Lucknow, Nov. 1: A highway skirmish broke out today between supporters of Salman Khurshid and Arvind Kejriwal at the Union minister’s constituency of Farrukhabad, about 270km from here, ahead of a rally by the India Against Corruption (IAC) leader.
The meeting in Farrukhabad town, which Kejriwal had organised in protest at an alleged threat by Khurshid, passed peacefully. Escorted by police, Kejriwal reached the venue without incident.
However, a convoy of six to seven vans and minibuses travelling a little behind him and carrying farmer supporters of Kejriwal was waylaid at Malikpur, about 30km from the rally venue, around 1.35pm, the police said.
A hail of stones from Khurshid supporters left at least two of the vehicles with smashed windowpanes and pockmarked bodywork. Some 50 stick-wielding farmers, all apparently Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) members, got off the vehicles and chased the attackers away.
Provincial Armed Constabulary troops rushed in to control the situation. No one received serious injuries.
Kejriwal later told the rally, where estimations of the crowd size ranged between 10,000 and 20,000, that he had come to take up Khurshid’s “challenge”. Khurshid had said “let them come and visit Farrukhabad; but let him also return from Farrukhabad” —a comment Kejriwal had interpreted as a threat.
The “threat” had prompted the BKU-supported Kisan Mahasabha to marshal farmers from Sonepat and Panipat in Haryana, and Muzaffarnagar and Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh, for Kejriwal’s “security”. PTI said 1,400 farmers were part of the team.
The farmers from Haryana were apparently aggrieved over land acquisition by the state’s Congress government.
A showdown had been building up over the past few days through a poster war and the circulation of mysterious CDs.
Today, the black flag-waving, pro-Khurshid activists who ambushed the convoy wore Anna Hazare-style caps saying “Main hoon Salman Khurshid (I am Salman Khurshid)”, while the IAC supporters’ caps screamed: “Main hoon aam aadmi (I am a common man)”.
“As they (Khurshid supporters) spotted the farmers (in minibuses), stone-throwing began,” said a local police inspector, Satish Tyagi.
The CDs showed a purported IAC activist appealing to Khurshid’s wife to let the meeting take place undisturbed, angering Kejriwal’s supporters who took this as an insult.