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Congress tepid, BJP cries ‘mock fight’

New Delhi, Jan. 20: The Congress and the government today criticised Arvind Kejriwal’s agitation near Parliament but seemed tepid and confused in its approach, while an acerbic BJP dubbed the Delhi chief minister’s showdown with the Centre a “mock fight”.

Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari termed the protests over Delhi police “gimmickry”.

But choice of the word by the Congress leader, heckled by AAP supporters after he had to walk because of their blockade, seemed mild given that the heart of Delhi remained choked and Republic Day preparations were disrupted.

“It is unfortunate, the AAP knows they will not be able to deliver on the promises, so they are resorting to this gimmickry. The AAP was not given a mandate by the people of Delhi to create anarchy. It’s high time the AAP makes the transition from being agitators to administrators,” Tewari said.

The soft stance was also reflected at the Congress’s media briefing today, with spokesperson Meem Afzal not mentioning the subject and dealing with it only in response to questions.

“Kejriwal should control his fascination for agitation and start governing. He should know he can’t govern from the streets and that it is time for him to deliver, not agitate,” Afzal said, but added the Congress would continue to support the AAP government.

Asked about the traffic mess and threat to the R-Day parade, he said: “People are seeing the chaos on the roads, there were traffic jams. The question of Republic Day is vital. They should introspect what disrespecting R-Day means.”

If the official response was timid, the unprecedented drama by a chief minister in the heart of the capital, metres from Parliament, made rural development minister Jairam Ramesh quip: “Agitation is all about poetry and governance is all about prose.”

Ramesh added that the AAP was becoming an embarrassment and wrote to senior party leader Yogendra Yadav saying the party’s actions were atrocious and irresponsible.

Ramesh had been pulled up by the Congress recently for his laudatory assessment of Kejriwal’s party and warnings that the Congress and the BJP would be history if they didn’t learn from the AAP.

Today, most senior Congress leaders wondered what would happen if chief ministers and ministers agitated on the streets, held cities to ransom and lead lynch mobs to solve people’s problems.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said in Bhopal that Kejriwal should be understand “governments cannot be run by staging dharnas” and that problems should solved through legislative measures and constitutional means.

Congress MP Bhakta Charan Das said Kejriwal should remember that the people of Delhi had not given him the mandate to sit on dharnas and fight on the streets. “He is the chief minister. Even if he does not believe in the system, he should change it instead of shouting and making allegations on the streets.”

The BJP was scathing of Kejriwal’s ways, saying his party had become a “victim of its own unconventional style” and appearing to suggest that it wasn’t a party suited to governance.

“It is obvious that the AAP is more comfortable doing a dharna than (functioning) inside the sachivalaya (state secretariat). The past three weeks have shown that inside the sachivalaya (too), the party gets into a self-destructive mode,” the BJP said in a statement.

Senior leader Arun Jaitley, who had wondered yesterday whether “the AAP was looking for a way out of the government and get back to the streets”, continued to question the larger intentions behind the protests.

“Is the planned dharna a ploy to fracture its (the AAP’s) non-transparent arrangement with the Congress? Is it exploiting the non-preparedness of the Congress and the home minister (Sushil Kumar Shinde) in yielding to the pressures of the AAP?” the Rajya Sabha Opposition leader asked in a statement.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman termed the confrontation a “mock fight”. “This is a mock fight between the AAP and its ally, the Congress. Such an agitation affects the aam aadmi. Both the AAP and the Congress are responsible for it.”