Both sides threw stones, canes and even chairs at each other and shouted slogans.
What triggered the protest was the Gujarat police detaining AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal earlier in the day for violating the model code of conduct. Sources said as soon news of Kejriwal’s detention spread, AAP leaders sent out bulk messages to their supporters urging them to join a protest outside BJP office at 5 pm.
Though the AAP protest began in a modest manner with around 30 supporters shouting anti-Modi slogans, it soon turned ugly when some AAP volunteers tried to forcibly enter the BJP office compound. They were stopped by policemen, but by then, a large group of BJP workers had gathered on the other side of the gate and started shouting anti-Kejriwal slogans.
A group of BJP supporters carrying party flags and canes came outside the office and clashed with the AAP workers.
Police resorted to water cannons to control the mob, but violence escalated as members of both parties started throwing stones, canes and chairs at each other.
Around 12 passersby were injured in the melee, police said.
Soon, AAP leaders, Ashutosh and Anand Kumar, both candidates in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, former Delhi minister Rakhi Birla and Shazia Ilmi, joined the protest.
Denying that the AAP supporters were responsible for the protest turning violent, Ilmi said, “His (Kejriwal’s ) rally did not have any banners or flags. He was just meeting people. The rally had been planned in advance. How is it a violation of the model code?” Ilmi said.
Nalin Kohli, a BJP office bearer, accused journalist-turned AAP leader Ashutosh, the LS candidate from Chandni Chowk, of engineering the trouble and demanded his arrest.
Addressing mediapersons late Wednesday, AAP leaders Prashant Bhushan, Ashutosh and Jernail Singh said the party will write to the Election Commission, demanding action against those who were involved in the protest outside BJP office.
“Our protest was peaceful. The BJP workers came with canes to beat our volunteers. Many volunteers were injured. One worker has been admitted to the ICU of RML hospital,” Bhushan said.
“On the basis of videos of the protest, it is easy to identify who was engaging in violence. Nalin Kohli attacked our volunteers with sticks. We appeal to police to arrest those guilty. If any of our workers are responsible, cases should be registered against them too,” he said.
Apologising on the behalf of AAP volunteers for “retaliating”, Bhushan said, “Such provocation will come again. But I appeal to the volunteers that there should not be any kind of retaliation.”
Late Wednesday, former Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel hit out at the AAP for “leading an unruly mob to the BJP headquarters”.
“Today’s attack at BJP headquarters strengthens our belief that the AAP’s agenda is to replace democracy with mobocracy. Strict action must be taken against all AAP leaders and those who indulged in mindless violence against the BJP today,” he tweeted.
Police said 13 AAP supporters, 10 BJP supporters, four policemen and one mediaperson were injured. “A case of obstructing public servant on duty, rioting and damaging public property has been registered against unknown persons,” a senior police officer said.
Police said they have identified and detained over 30 persons who they suspected of having created a ruckus and instigated the mob. These persons are likely to be arrested.