Perched on the shoulders of Vadodara Congress president Narendra Ravat, candidate Madhusudan Mistry reached the top of the electric pole that carried a poster of his BJP rival Narendra Modi. On top of it he pasted his own poster, part of a protest that landed him and 36 party members under arrest Thursday. They later got conditional bail against a surety of Rs 5,000.
As Chandrakant Shrivastav, leader of the opposition in Vadodara’s municipal corporation, and others chanted “Halla Bol”, Congressmen damaged several Modi kiosks across the city. They were protesting the Election Commission’s refusal to allow them to put up alternative kiosks when Modi’s posters have come up all over the city since March 24. They were arrested for unlawful assembly, violation of prohibitory orders, damaging public property and rioting.
For over an hour, policemen struggled to handle the rampaging Congress workers, particularly Mistry, who refused to court arrest when they requested him to. He accused them of being “BJP men” and demanded the identity cards of those in civilian clothes.
“I am a Rajya Sabha MP and I have my I-card. Where is yours? Show me your I-cards and my arrest warrant, otherwise back off,” Mistry screamed at the cops, from above, making attempt after attempt to climb the pole.
Dipankar Trivedi, DCP (South), then ordered his men to detain Mistry by force even as Congress worker lay down in front of police vans. About an hour and a half later, Mistry was picked up by four policemen and dragged into the police jeep, along with Ravat and other Congress leaders. By then, the Congress workers had damaged several kiosks.
Mistry had argued with election officers Wednesday for space on electric poles, which are already full of Modi posters, and cited the “equitable distribution of space” policy of the Election Commission.
On Thursday, while policemen were pleading with him, Mistry told reporters, “It is sheer disrespect of democracy and rules of the Election Commission that one party is being treated in not being given equal space to promote their candidate. This is because the state administration is working for Modi. We will file a police complaint against the men in civilian clothes who claim to be cops and are attacking Congress workers.”
“There was no delay in detaining Mistry because of his Rajya Sabha MP status,” DCP Trivedi told The Indian Express. “However, protocol calls for a communication to be made to the Rajya Sabha, which we will follow now. Our videographers have filmed the act and we will now decide what must be done next to prevent any law and order issues. The posters they damaged have been put up with due permission.”
On Wednesday, Mistry charged the VMC and DEO with working for the “chief minister of Gujarat” as they had not conceded the party’s request to put up their kiosks. Mistry received a communication from the district collector and the magistrate and also the DEO, Vinod Rao, that the election officers were seeking the advice of the state chief electoral officer. He did not wait before launching the protest.