Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be on an indefinite fast from March 1, seeking to “organise” and “prepare” people of the national capital for a “decisive battle on full statehood”.
Kejriwal’s announcement to embrace a path of agitation, which he has treaded twice in the past, caps the AAP government’s four-year-long running feud with the BJP-led Centre and the Lt Governor, and comes following judicial setbacks on who has control over the administrative apparatus of the Union Territory.
Speaking in the Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal said he and his partymen were prepared to “lay down down their lives” for the people of Delhi, who have been at the receiving end of “injustice” since Independence.
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“Ab aar ya paar ki ladai hai (this is going to be a decisive battle),” the Chief Minister said, announcing his decision.
While the Aam Aadmi Party had indicated that the issue of full statehood will be the focal point of its Lok Sabha campaign, Kejriwal’s decision to lead from the front is being seen as an attempt by the party to capture the centrestage in the run up to the general elections.
“Every Congress and BJP government has exploited Delhi so far. People of Delhi have given us a lot. From March 1, our movement for full statehood will begin. I will sit on an indefinite fast from March 1. My objective is solely to organise and prepare the people of Delhi on the statehood demand. We are ready to lay down our lives in this movement,” the AAP chief said.
Kejriwal has been on two hunger strikes in the past — a 10-day-long one in July-August 2012, following which the decision to launch AAP was announced, and a 14-day-long fast in March-April 2013 over “inflated water and power bills”.
While Kejriwal hasn’t been part of any hunger strike as Chief Minister, he has been on dharnas, including last year at the Lt Governor’s Secretariat.
The venue of the proposed strike hasn’t been decided so far. AAP MLAs will convene at Kejriwal’s residence on Saturday night, while an organisation-level meeting has been scheduled for Sunday to make preparations for the agitation.
The decision comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s decision to refer to a larger bench the AAP government’s claim on transfers and postings of bureaucrats, which was termed as “highly disappointing” and a “ faulty judgment” by Kejriwal.
In his speech, Kejriwal also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that he has not given time to meet the CM even once in the last four years: “I have been trying to meet the PM over the last four years. The PM hasn’t met the CM of Delhi in the last four years. Why is Delhi in a mess? Why is it so filthy?…Aap Pakistan sambhal lo, Pakistan toh aapse sambhalta nahi; give MCDs, DDA and Delhi Police to the people of Delhi.”
Kejriwal claimed statehood will lead to two lakh jobs in the Delhi government, pucca houses for every Delhiite, regularisation of contractual government employees and new schools and universities.