In his first public rally after resigning as Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal set the Aam Aadmi Party’s pitch for the coming Lok Sabha as well as Haryana Assembly elections. Launching AAP’s nationwide campaign for the general elections on Sunday, he went after not just the Congress and BJP but also Reliance, its owner Mukesh Ambani and the media.
Wasting no time targeting Ambani, the AAP national convenor said five minutes into his speech at the HUDA ground in Rohtak that the Reliance owner funded the campaigns of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as well as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Kejriwal went on to read out numbers of what he called were two Swiss bank accounts belonging to Mukesh and Anil Ambani.
“Mukesh Ambani runs this country,” Kejriwal told an approximately 10,000-strong crowd. “A few years ago, Mukesh Ambani had said that the Congress was his shop… Be it Rahul Gandhi’s government or Sonia Gandhi’s government or Narendra Modi’s government, Mukesh Ambani will rule the country.”
Waving a photograph, Kejriwal said, “I have a photo of Modiji with Adani’s helicopter. Modiji says he was a tea-seller. How can a tea-seller have so many helicopters? Up to Rs 50 crore are spent on his rallies. Who funds them?”
Linking it to gas prices, Kejriwal added, “If Mukesh Ambani is giving you a helicopter, he will ask ask for $12 and not $8 per unit when you come to power.”
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Reading out two numbers, the former CM said: “Modiji, I give you the Swiss bank account numbers of Mukesh and Anil Ambani… Modiji should tell us if he will get the country’s money back from these accounts.”
Slipping into a Haryanvi accent, Kejriwal underlined his association with the state. “I was born in Bhiwani and studied in Hisar.” With Rohtak a stronghold of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, AAP leaders made it clear that the coming Haryana Assembly elections would be one of their focus areas, passing a “resolution of no-confidence” against the state Congress government.
“You have to field candidates for all the 10 Lok Sabha seats (in the state). For Vidhan Sabha, you have to contest all the 90 seats,” Kejriwal told the audience.
Criticising Hooda, he said, “Every person in Haryana says he is not known as a chief minister but a property dealer. He has taken away people’s land and sold it to Ambani, DLF, Robert Vadra.”
Kejriwal also urged AAP national executive member Naveen Jaihind to contest for the Lok Sabha from Rohtak, against Hooda’s son Deepender Hooda.
Kejriwal alleged that there was a nexus between media organisations and the Ambanis. “Mukesh Ambani has bought some TV channels and newspapers. They have been told to give extensive coverage to Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi… Yesterday, the editor-in-chief of a TV channel met me and said that his bosses wanted him to cut down on Aam Aadmi Party coverage. He said he was going to resign. There is an English newspaper in Delhi whose owners own gas reserves and they have started writing against us,” he said.
Kejriwal also criticised media reports on pre-poll surveys, which had given the party not more than 10 seats in the Delhi Assembly. “They (the media organistions) have taken money and shown wrong results,” he said.
AAP senior leader Yogendra Yadav, the party’s candidate from Gurgaon in Haryana, listed some of its plans concerning the state, including a law on the lines of the Jan Lokpal to look at corruption cases of the last 20 years; video-recording of every government job interview; opening of liquor shops on the basis of women’s votes; a commission to look at farmers’ issues; and inspection of government schools and hospitals.
Apart from Kejriwal and Yadav, AAP leaders Ashutosh and Gopal Rai and Delhi MLAs Manish Sisodia, Rakhi Birla, Akhilesh Tripathi, Madan Lal, Kapil Mishra and Surendra Singh attended the rally.
Talking about the achievements of his Delhi government, Kejriwal listed the Rs 1 crore compensation to a slain constable’s family as well as the midnight inspections by AAP ministers Sisodia, Birla and Somnath Bharti.
He added that his decision to resign as CM had nothing to do with his or the party’s Lok Sabha plans.
But the rally saw senior AAP leaders projecting Kejriwal as their choice for PM. Said Gopal Rai, “We want to ask you, ‘Why do you not want to be the prime minister? You are obliged to the people of Delhi but you are also obliged to the people of the country’. We want a PM who will leave the PM’s position for the welfare of the nation.”
Sisodia thanked the “people of Haryana” for giving “a son like Arvind Kejriwal who has left the Congress and the BJP confounded”.
Yadav said that while it had not been decided yet whether Kejriwal would contest for the Lok Sabha, the party’s campaign for the polls was under his leadership.
Explaining why Rohtak was chosen for the launch of AAP’s Lok Sabha campaign, Yadav said, “It is the centre of Haryana. It is considered to be the political capital of Haryana. For quite sometime, we have heard that winning Rohtak will be difficult.”
In the days after AAP’s electoral victory in Delhi, Haryana had been seen as its next big area of interest. Sources in the party point out that like Kejriwal, several of AAP’s faces are from the state, including Birla, Surendra Singh and Yadav. “A huge contingent of the party’s volunteer force also comes from Haryana,” party leaders said.