New Delhi, Jan. 31: “Suresh Kalmadi…” Arvind Kejriwal’s voice rang out over the gathering.
“Should be defeated,” went up the chorus.
“Nitin Gadkari…” the chief minister called out from his list of the “dishonest”. “Inko haarna chahiye ya nahi (Should he be defeated or not)?”
“Haarna chahiye…” thundered the chorus.
After haarna, what? Before the Delhi elections, Kejriwal had similarly raised the corruption pitch against Sheila Dikshit. But since defeating her and coming to power, there has been not a word about any probe to uncover the alleged corruption.
The Delhi chief minister today bandied about the names of 27 politicians in public and declared them “beimaan” (dishonest), before adding Rahul Gandhi and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to the list on party activists’ demand.
By evening, Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Ashutosh had incorporated the names of Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi too to hike the list to 31.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi confined himself to accusing Kejriwal of having little regard for the process of law, but BJP’s Nitin Gadkari slapped a notice asking the chief minister to withdraw his name and tender a public apology within three days or face a defamation suit.
A senior Delhi BJP leader underlined the difference between making allegations and proving them.
“In the run-up to the Assembly elections, Kejriwal was focused on unearthing corruption charges against Sheila Dikshit and her ministers,” the leader said.
“He had claimed he had all the evidence to nail them. But since coming to power, he has forgotten all about it.”
Today’s exercise came before journalists and some 50-60 Aam Aadmi Party leaders and activists at an “open session” at the Constitution Club, conducted ahead of a closed-door meeting of the party national council.
“I have drawn up a list of this country’s dishonest,” Kejriwal started off. “If any honest person’s name appears by mistake, do point that out….”
The last bit was apparently meant as a joke.
The first name was that of Congress MP Kalmadi, accused in the financial scandals surrounding the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The third was Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s.
“Should he/she be defeated or not?” Kejriwal cried after calling out each name. “Should be defeated,” the audience thundered back.
The gathering began chanting Rahul’s name in the middle of the roll call, and the chief minister grabbed at it. “Yes, yes, Rahul Gandhi,” he said.
Party leader Ashutosh later linked Rahul to his brother-in-law Robert Vadra and termed him a “dishonest” leader. “Where is Robert Vadra’s money going?” he said on a TV channel.
Kejriwal named Modi in his speech, alleging that he and Rahul were spending Rs 500 crore each for branding.
“Where is the money coming from?” he asked. “How can they be honest when they spend so much money?”
The chief minister asked the audience to submit the names of more such “dishonest” politicians to add to the final list, which party sources said would be published in a couple of days.
Kejriwal said the Aam Aadmi Party planned to field strong candidates against these “dishonest” politicians in the Lok Sabha polls and launch a movement to defeat them — today’s exercise was his way of seeking the approval of “the country”.
The AAP wants to build its Lok Sabha campaign around the issue of corrupt politicians. As of now, it plans to contest at least 350 seats.
Kejriwal argued that politicians were endangering the country and modestly added that he had not come to engage in power politics like the Congress and the BJP but to save the nation.
Congress spokesperson Singhvi played down the question of possible withdrawal of support.
“Don’t link everything to support. The support has been given only for one reason: so that the government should not fall for want of eight MLAs. We disagree with them on 99 per cent of issues — that is known to everybody,” Singhvi said.
He called Kejriwal an “accuser, jury (and) prosecutor rolled into one”.
The BJP’s Trivedi said: “Kejriwal should look inwards. His party is already under a cloud for foreign funding.”