Indian Express

Candidate-citizen meet: Debate disrupted as Ananth ‘crosses’ line

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Ananth Kumar and Nandan Nilekani request party workers to calm down Saturday. (PTI) Ananth Kumar and Nandan Nilekani request party workers to calm down Saturday. (PTI)

Midway through the Bangalore Political Action Committee’s candidate-and-citizen meet, the organisers were forced to call off the interactive session after BJP and Congress party workers clashed and came close to blows.

Repeated attempts by BPAC organisers Kiran Majumdar Shaw and K Jairaj and candidates Nandan Nilekani (INC), Nina P Nayak (AAP) and Ruth Manorama (JDS) to calm the audience turned futile and the venue had to be vacated.

Trouble started brewing in the auditorium of the NMKRV College for Women after the first half hour where the four candidates, including Ananth Kumar (BJP) were asked to list three ‘Big Ideas’. In the second round, when Kumar, asked which issues of national concern he would take up in Parliament if elected, made several critical remarks about the UPA government for failing to control illegal migration from Bangaladesh, intrusion by Chinese, and inflation in the country, several Congress supporters took exception to his allegations and stormed in front of the dais.

Manjunath D, a Congress supporter, said, “This is not a forum to make political comments; he must stick to the question or vacate podium for the next presenter.”

When repeated pleas by session moderator Jairaj and Shaw failed to deter Kumar, supporters began to clash verbally and chaos ensued. At approximately 4 pm, the red-faced organisers declared the session closed.

Speaking to National Standard, Shaw expressed her disappointment and said people were just aping their leaders in Parliament to convey their point. BPAC’s learning from the experience would change the format of further interactions to be held, she said. “The leaders were intimated not to make remarks or criticism against each other, unfortunately this was the result of a speaker violating it. Next time the session will be hosted in a closed format via TV interaction with a scrutinised audience,” Shaw said.

Refusing to admit that his comments instigated the crowd, Ananth Kumar said Congress members lacked maturity and couldn’t listen to constructive criticism. Nilekani, on his part, accused Ananth Kumar of derailing the interaction and lack of interest “in protecting the interests of his constituency”.

“Ananth Kumar doesn’t want to have a conversation about the challenges we face, or about his own record,” Nilekani wrote in a blogpost.

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