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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Arvind Kejriwal’s protest march against aide’s arrest gets lacklustre response

The BJP didn't let the opportunity pass to flag the poor turnout Kejriwal had drawn just over a week after receiving a hero’s welcome when he stepped out of jail, where he had spent weeks awaiting trial for corruption

Pheroze L. Vincent New Delhi Published 20.05.24, 05:06 AM
Kejriwal with party leaders Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Kailash Gahlot during a protest march towards the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday.

Kejriwal with party leaders Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Kailash Gahlot during a protest march towards the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI picture.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday led a protest march towards the BJP central office a day after his aide Bibhav Kumar was sent to police custody for allegedly assaulting party MP Swati Maliwal at the CM's home on May 13.

All the Aam Aadmi Party’s elected representatives and office-bearers in Delhi joined the march. But amid afternoon temperatures of around 45 degrees, they could not fill even the 200m-odd stretch the police had left free between the party office and the barricades.

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The BJP didn't let the opportunity pass to flag the poor turnout Kejriwal had drawn just over a week after receiving a hero’s welcome when he stepped out of jail, where he had spent weeks awaiting trial for corruption.

Stopped by the police barricades, the march could not make it to the BJP headquarters, about 1km away. Kejriwal’s call to court arrest went unfulfilled, too.

The protesters dispersed after less than half an hour of sloganeering at the barricades.

Before the march, Kejriwal, who is also his party's national convener, told reporters: "Why did we have to gather here today? Because the PM has made up his mind to completely destroy and crush the AAP, for which he has started an operation called 'Operation Jhadu' (the broom is the AAP's election symbol)….

"How did I come to know this? Many people go to meet the PM, and many of them know us too. So, after meeting him, they tell us --- and almost everyone has the same version --- that the first thing the PM talks about is that 'these AAP people are growing very fast'."

Kejriwal added, without citing a source, that after Bibhav, other party leaders would be arrested as well.

"Under this operation, big leaders of the AAP will be arrested; they are being arrested. In the coming days, the AAP’s bank accounts will be frozen," he claimed.

The AAP itself has been made an accused in the excise policy case in which Kejriwal is out on bail.

BJP Delhi vice-president Kapil Mishra tweeted: "Even 200 people did not come to Kejriwal's call and stand in the sun for five minutes. Kejriwal ran away today. AAP's attempt to divert attention from the atrocities on Swati Maliwal fails."

The AAP’s Punjab unit stayed off the protest saying its leaders were busy campaigning.

A party source here told The Telegraph: "The low turnout could indicate that party volunteers are with Swati, although there has been no major expression of support for her so far."

The AAP resumed campaigning for the polls across the city after the protest.

Maliwal, a Rajya Sabha member, tweeted: "There was a time when we all came out on the streets to get justice for Nirbhaya. Today, after 12 years, we are out on the streets to save the accused who made the CCTV footage disappear and formatted the phone? I wish I had used this much force for Manish Sisodia ji. If he had been here, maybe this bad thing wouldn't have happened to me!"

Sisodia, a senior AAP leader, is in jail in the same case in which Kejriwal was arrested.

Late on Saturday night, a Delhi court sent Kumar to five days' police custody after the force said his mobile phone had recently been formatted, and that the CCTV memory at the chief minister’s house was blank for the time of the incident. The police seized the CCTV recorder from the premises on Sunday.

The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, whose office is opposite the AAP's, kept off the protest.

Asked about the matter last week before the AAP denounced Maliwal, Priyanka Gandhi had said: "If any woman is mistreated or tortured, I will stand in support of that woman and speak. She is in some other party; if she speaks then I too will. If this has happened and Kejriwalji knows about it, then Kejriwalji will take appropriate action."

Since aligning with the AAP, the Congress has been sending its representatives to AAP protests against the BJP-led Centre.

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