Three of AAP’s top leaders battled on Friday to contain the fallout of the death of a farmer from Rajasthan at a party rally this week, with one of them issuing an apology, another visiting the village of the man who died by hanging in Delhi, and a third breaking down during a TV show.
After two days of accusations and counter-accusations by political parties on who was to blame for the incident, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal apologised for continuing his speech after Gajendra Singh was declared dead, Delhi unit chief Sanjay Singh visited the farmer’s village in Dausa and senior leader Ashutosh was reduced to tears after speaking to Singh’s daughter during a TV debate.
“I was supposed to give an hour-long speech but I gave it up in 10-15 minutes. I feel that this was my mistake. Probably, I should not have spoken. If this has hurt anyone’s sentiments, I would like to apologise,” Kejriwal said.
“I am guilty. Blame me. I feel that the rally should have been called off,” he added.
The AAP chief has drawn flak from political quarters and even Singh’s family for not taking action when the farmer was atop the tree in Jantar Mantar with a towel around his neck, and letting the rally continue even after the death.
Ashutosh, who drew criticism for saying he would ask Kejriwal to climb a tree the next time such an incident took place, started crying after Singh’s 17-year-old daughter asked him why AAP leaders continued to speak as her father died some metres away.
Folding his hands, Ashutosh said, “I am your sinner. I was present on the stage and still could not save him. We have not been able to sleep at night. There is a lot of pain.”
Later, in an attempt to justify his party’s actions, Kejriwal said many couldn’t see what was happening because “banners had been put up on the tree”.
“We could not have announced anything from the stage at that point. If we had announced anything from the stage then it was possible that the entire crowd would have run towards the tree,” he said.
“Time and again, we were saying that something wrong is happening on the tree, the police personnel should climb the tree and check. Under the tree, there were some guest teachers, some police personnel and some volunteers who were looking up. But I honestly feel that even they would not have thought that someone would actually come there and commit suicide,” Kejriwal added.
Also on Friday, senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh visited the farmer’s family at Nangal Jhamarwada village in Rajasthan’s Dhausa district, spending time with the farmer’s children, wife and father.
Both Kejriwal and Ashutosh, however, maintained that issue was being politicised. “The people of the country should understand they will get nothing from this type of politics,” Ashutosh said.
He further attacked the BJP and the Congress for “politicising” the issue. “They are dragging (Delhi Deputy CM) Manish Sisodia’s name into this. Fingers are being pointed at (AAP leader) Kumar Vishwas. We are humans. We are not here to do politics. (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh should understand. We are being blamed for instigating him (Gajendra Singh). This is wrong,” Ashutosh said.
Kejriwal, on the other hand, maintained that the focus of the debate should be on farmers’ suicides and the plight of farmers. “Please focus on the real issue of the farmers and desist from politicising. Whoever is guilty hang him but the focus of the debate should be on why the farmers are committing suicide,” Kejriwal said.