On Sunday evening, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked “supporters and public” not to come for his dharna in view of Republic Day preparations, but Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) units in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had already been mobilised by then.
Party sources said messages calling for supporters went out to neighbouring states on Sunday afternoon itself.
On Monday afternoon, protesting outside Rail Bhawan, Kejriwal said “he could not sleep all night, and Republic Day could not mean just watching tableaux”. He urged “all people to come here and support us”.
Several leaders of the party’s state units said they had arrived in Delhi the previous evening. Paramjeet Singh, secretary of AAP’s Haryana unit, said, “Several of us arrived in Delhi on Sunday itself, knowing that police would barricade the area where the dharna would take place. Nearly 150 people from Haryana are at the dharna site, and over 800 are standing behind the barricades. We have come prepared to sit with Arvindji on fast for ten days if the need arises.”
Members of AAP units in Haryana districts like Bhiwani, Rewari and Fatehabad said they had received details of dharna plans on Sunday afternoon. “We left our areas last night, so we could arrive in time. We got a message to leave our districts and add to the numbers in Delhi. There was no further communication and we were not told to go back because of the restrictions in Delhi for Republic Day. We are happy that the party called us. Several people have come from UP as well,” said a member of the Bhiwani district unit.
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Sources said several Delhi MLAs contacted people in neighbouring states on Sunday. “There are close links, as each district unit was attached to one constituency in the run up to the Delhi assembly elections. The Bhiwani unit worked for the Shakarpur candidate Satyendra Jain, and members of his office called us on Sunday,” said an AAP member. Jain, now health minister, sat away from the site of the protest after the police refused to let his Bhiwani supporters enter with him.
Asked to explain the huge crowds despite Kejriwal’s appeal asking them not to come, an AAP leader said, “The dharna was well publicised, and these people came on their own to show their support. While we cannot deny that there are people from outside, no message was sent to them.”
Late on Monday, the AAP said, “Aaj Arvind Kejriwal Delhi ki janta ki suraksha ke liye poori raat thand mein sadak par soyenge. Delhi Police ke tanashahi ke khilaaf kal 9 am sab Rail Bhawan pahunche (To ensure the security of the people of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal will sleep on the road all night in the cold. Reach Rail Bhawan at 9 am tomorrow to protest against the autocratic Delhi Police).”