Buoyed by a growing Opposition unity over the administrative impasse in the city, hundreds of AAP workers hit the streets Sunday, even as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appeared to soften his stance on the seventh day of his dharna. The CM issued a public statement and reassured the IAS officers that he would ensure their “safety and security”, while urging them to call off their “strike.”
The march, planned till the Prime Minister’s house in Lok Kalyan Marg, ended near Parliament Street police station after winding its way through central Delhi from Mandi House between 4 pm and 6 pm.
Preventive measures ahead of the march put the New Delhi district under a virtual lockdown, with police barring vehicles on roads leading to the venue. Entry and exit from Metro stations in central Delhi, including Central Secretariat, Patel Chowk, Udyog Bhawan and Janpath, were barred between 2 pm and 8 pm. Lok Kalyan Marg was shut at 12 pm.
With the CPI(M) voicing its support for Kejriwal, the march saw shades of red as workers from the Communist Party walked beside the broom brigade. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury briefly joined the protesters at the Mandi House circle. “Using office of Governors and L-Gs, the BJP seeks to destabilise non-BJP democratically elected state govts. This is happening with democratically elected govts in Delhi & Puducherry,” Yechury tweeted. However, no major leader from other Opposition parties could be spotted.
The AAP also alleged that its MLAs faced resistance from police while ferrying protesters to the venue from across the city. AAP leaders, MLAs and MPs — including Dilip Pandey, Atishi Marlena, Sanjay Singh, Pankaj Gupta, Sushil Gupta and Rajendra Pal Gautam — addressed workers. Speaker Ram Niwas Goel was also seen at the forefront of the protest.
The rally also saw sloganeering against against Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and the Prime Minister. The people at the rally were mostly from bastis and unauthorised colonies — considered the mainstay of the AAP votebank. Some, however, had no knowledge about the tussle between the bureaucrats and the ministers.
A woman from Matiala said, “We have come here to press for steady supply of water in our locality. Monsoons are here and we are expecting waterlogging. We want sewers to be built for better sanitation.” Kejriwal, whose indefinite dharna along with ministers Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Gopal Rai, entered the seventh day, tweeted through the day. Jain and Sisodia are on a hunger strike.
According to medical reports shared by Raj Niwas, the vitals of the fasting ministers were stable. However, both ministers have lost weight. Late on Sunday, Kejriwal tweeted that “Jain has been shifted to hospital due to his deteriorating health”. In the morning, the CM attacked Baijal over reports that the latter would attend the NITI Aayog meeting as Delhi’s representative in his place.
However, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant took to Twitter and refuted Kejriwal’s claim. Delhi had no representation in the meeting. Later, Kejriwal tweeted to the PM: “Sir, the entire country is pleading to you to end the strike by the officials and let the elected government work. People are feeling very insulted.”
Is the country safe in the hands of a PM who is anchoring a strike by bureaucrats to scuttle the developmental work in a state,” he added.