Four non-Congress Opposition chief ministers on Saturday rallied behind Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi, whose sit-in protest against Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal entered the sixth day. The chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka urged the Centre to “rise above politics”, solve the “constitutional crisis” and not “restrict the federal system”.
A day before the NITI Aayog meeting Sunday, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee joined hands with Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Andhra CM N Chandrababu Naidu and Karnataka Chief Minister M Kumaraswamy to address a press conference at Kejriwal’s residence in New Delhi. They also said they would speak to Modi during tea at the NITI Aayog meeting and ask for the issue to be solved.
The open support of four CMs for Kejriwal is also a significant signal for the Congress, which hopes to anchor the anti-BJP opposition at the national level. So far, the Congress has been critical of the AAP and Kejriwal’s sit-in protest in New Delhi, where it hopes to make a political comeback.
Before arriving at Kejriwal’s residence Saturday evening, the four CMs were not given permission to meet either the Delhi CM or Lt Governor and sources said that they were discussing the NITI Aayog meeting, the ongoing situation at Delhi and the upcoming elections for the deputy chairperson for the Rajya Sabha, a post that will be vacated on June 30.
“The TMC is likely to float a candidate and will look for support from other parties. This is usually a seat that goes with the Opposition. But this time, there is an effort to send a non-Congress, non-BJP leader to the post,” said a source.
Banerjee demanding that the Centre give respect to the mandate given by Delhi’s citizens, “This is a constitutional crisis. But there should never be such crisis due to which a government and the common people have to suffer… there are two crore people in Delhi… L-G is the appointed leader, if not he then to with who will one to go to seek time and talk?” she said.
Asked about the absence of support from the Congress, which has attacked Kejriwal’s protest as an attempt to obscure the AAP failures, Banerjee said, “I do not know, because the Congress has its own existence in Delhi and it doesn’t want any other party to come into power. That is their problem.”
Stating that the stalemate needed to end, Banerjee said, “Today is Eid. Time is precious for us. If any chief minister is facing any problem in any state – whether opposition or from the BJP – we will be there. There is a need to rise above politics.”
Following the press conference, Kejriwal said on Twitter: “The people of Delhi will ever be grateful to you sirs (the four CMs). We all will work together to save democracy. Thank you so much.”
Naidu, who recently left the NDA coalition, said: “The demand is clear – they have to sort out the issue immediately and allow the elected government to function smoothly. Should the Centre or L-G create problems for the elected government, then governance will be a problem.”
Vijayan added that any “democratically thinking” citizen would support Kejriwal. He said, “The attitude of the Centre is why this has happened. Our central government is destroying the federal system. That is the main threat.”
While Banerjee, Vijayan and Naidu are CM’s who AAP has been in touch with, sources confirmed that Kumaraswamy had only recently established contact with Kejriwal. “We came to support the Delhi CM, save the democratic system. We demand that the PM should interfere in the issue and take steps to solve the problem. The Central government must immediately resolve the problem,” Kumaraswamy said.
While Kumaraswamy, whose government in Karnataka depends on Congress support, has used this opportunity to send a signal to the Congress of its autonomy at the national level, the coming together of four CMs, holds significance in the wake of political realignment at the national level against the ruling BJP.
The unity on display Saturday also signals TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s strong position against the Congress’s claim to lead the Opposition against the BJP at the national level. Her decision to join a chief minister of a state (Kerala) ruled by CPM, which is pitted in a bitter battle against the TMC in West Bengal underscored her message to the Congress.