‘Main Bhi Kejriwal’: Jailed Delhi CM’s Wife Takes Centrestage as INDIA Allies Show Strength at Ramlila Protest – News18


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History came full circle at the Ramlila Maidan on Sunday, as the Congress, AAP and other INDIA bloc allies rallied behind Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren over their arrest. But, for the Delhi chief minister, the protest site is intricately linked to his party’s rise in India’s political landscape — for the first time ever, moving out of the confines of the office and into the vast public space, it was here that Kejriwal first took oath as CM in 2013.

This meeting of opposition leaders, including the AAP’s bitter rival Congress with its legislative party leader Sonia Gandhi, president Mallikarjun Kharge, as well as senior leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, was significant. And more so because activist Anna Hazare and Kejriwal’s Jan Lokpal Movement, which began in 2011, was targeted at the then UPA-led government at the Centre, sowing the seeds of its decline on the national stage.

Kejriwal’s wife Sunita Kejriwal, who was earlier seated among the guests, was the centre of attention as she stepped into the spotlight, carrying her husband’s message to the people of Delhi. Former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren’s wife Kalpana Soren was also present, and Sonia Gandhi was seen greeting both the women.

“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has put my husband behind bars. Do you think he has done the right thing? Do you believe that my husband is a true patriot and an honest man? Do you believe what the BJP says that he should resign? Do you think you should resign? Your Kejriwal is a ‘sher’ (lion). They cannot keep him behind bars for long,” Sunita said, reading out the CM’s message from jail.

She also spelled out the six guarantees promised by the AAP to the people of Delhi – 24-hour electricity supply with free power to the poor, state-of-the-art government schools in every village, mohalla clinics and multi-speciality hospitals and free health services, MSP for farmers as per Swaminathan Commission, and full statehood for the national capital.

The Kejriwal couple’s children, Harshita and Pulkit, were also present in the audience. The ‘Loktantra Bachao’ rally is the opposition front’s third such gathering, with Kejriwal’s arrest as the galvanising factor.

“Today, the NDA government is destroying all the guarantees to the citizens in Ambedkar’s Constitution. Who will take the guarantee of their ‘guarantees’, who have destroyed constitutional institutions and values one by one?” asked Kalpana Soren, who was accompanied by the new Jharkhand CM, Champai Soren. His predecessor was arrested by the ED on money laundering charges, two months ago after 10 summons and with the court refusing to grant him relief. Anita, the spouse of jailed MP Sanjay Singh, and Poonam, former minister Satyendar Jain’s wife, were also on stage.

Even though she did not turn up, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who is close to Kejriwal, sent TMC MP Derek O’Brien. Her Tamil Nadu counterpart MK Stalin also sent MP Tiruchi N Siva in his stead. AAP-ruled Punjab’s CM Bhagwant Mann was also present.

Among other INDIA allies, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, NCP-SCP boss Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI chief D Raja, CPI-ML leader Dipankar Bhattacharya, NC chief Farooq Abdullah were also present in the rally.

Slogans galore – ‘United against tanashahi’

Roads leading to Ramlila Maidan were splattered with ‘Main bhi Kejriwal’ hoardings, while there were also posters of Kejriwal behind bars at the protest site. Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely and former CM Sheila Dikshit’s son Sandeep Dikshit were also seen supervising the arrangements.

In the background of live Punjabi music by singer Ravinder Grewal, the site soon became dotted with yellow-blue flags of the AAP, Kejriwal masks and bright T-shirts with the message – ‘Main bhi Kejriwal’. “We have come to support Kejriwal ji, against the BJP’s ‘tanashahi’. This is the first time they have jailed a sitting chief minister without any proof. Unko apni kursi ka darr hai,” said Nisha, district secretary of the women’s wing of the AAP from Barnala in Punjab.

“We have come to save democracy,” said another AAP karyakarta Dinesh from Rajasthan. He said 500 people have come from his home state. “They have jailed an honest man working for the people while goondas are roaming free,” said another AAP supporter Prashant Kumar Jaiswal.

“He is someone who lives a comfortable life with a prestigious job. He is not here for the love of money. People who are attached to Modi ji, RSS, after seeing Sunita Kejriwal’s video are saying Modi ji has done a wrong deed. They are playing ‘satta se paisa, paisa se satta’ through electoral bonds. Kejriwal has now reached crores of people,” he added, when asked why he believed that the Delhi CM was innocent.

Party workers from across states – Odisha, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and more – made the journey to express solidarity with their jailed leader.

“We are uniting against ‘tanashahi’, they have wrongly arrested Kejriwal; we are here for INDIA gathbandhan (opposition INDIA bloc). We are here to save Indian democracy,” said Hari Om Prabhakar from Delhi.

Ramgopal, a farmer from Palwal, said people from Haryana have travelled in more than 100 buses. A Congress supporter, he said people are here to see an end to corruption.

“Arresting leaders [like this] is not right. Is this a democracy or not? When 272 is enough to form the government, why do you need 400? Let them go to the opposition. If there is no opposition, who will raise the voice of the people?” he asked.

What did the Congress say?

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi made a dramatic entry from a gate reserved for the media instead of the VIP gate. He walked across the enclosure in front of the stage before finally taking his seat between NCP-SCP chief Sharad Pawar and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann. “I would also like to mention Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren, who are not with us today, but in our hearts we all stand together,” he said.

Giving an example of “match fixing”, Rahul Gandhi said, “Lok Sabha elections are in front of us. Who chose the umpire? Narendra Modi ji. Before the match was to begin, two players of our team were arrested and put behind bars. In the upcoming elections, Narendra Modi ji is trying ‘match fixing’. This slogan of ‘400 paar’ cannot be achieved without EVM [tampering], match fixing and putting pressure on social media and the press. The Congress is the largest opposition party, but our bank accounts have been frozen. We have to run campaigns, send people to states, put up posters, all our resources have been frozen. Leaders are being threatened, governments are being toppled; Kejriwal ji and Soren ji are jailed. This is ‘match fixing’,” he added.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who spoke later, said, “The BJP is like poison, the RSS is like poison. If you have a taste of it once, you will lose your life. Modi is destroying the country.”

Priyanka Gandhi spelled out the demands of the INDIA bloc – level-playing field; no coercive action by government agencies like I-T, ED and CBI; immediate release of jailed leaders; SIT probe into electoral bonds. Taking on the BJP in their own turf, she said: “The people of Delhi know the famous Ramlila Maidan. I have been coming here since childhood. Every year, Ravan is consigned to flames on Dussehra here. When I was a child, I used to come here with Indira ji, my grandmother. She told me about the ancient epic on Lord Ram’s life. Today, those who are in power call themselves Rambhakts but they are steeped in pretense and showmanship. Therefore, I want to remind them about the ancient epic and its message. Bhagwan Ram did not have power or means, not even a chariot, when he fought Ravan for the truth… He had hope, faith, love, benevolence, humility, patience, courage and truth. I would like to… remind PM Narendra Modi… that power is not permanent, power comes and goes…”

Asked about the BJP’s charge that the AAP is standing with those it once opposed, Rajya Sabha MP and organisation secretary Sandeep Pathak said this rally is not against any particular party.

“The key issue is corruption and the system with which the BJP is destroying the country. Then, too, we fought against corruption, now also we are fighting against the nexus and corruption that Modi ji has created,” he said.

What did other INDIA bloc allies say?

Yechury said: “In Kalyug’s Amrit Kaal, how is Amrit produced? It is produced when there is a churning in the oceans. Two pots emerge, one containing amrit and the other poison. Accidentally, the one containing amrit reaches the hands of the bad people. Today, we are standing here to snatch that “amrit ka kalash” from the bad people and use it for the people of this country.”

Champai Soren said Heman Soren has not surrendered and will not do so. Jharkhand will blow the bugle on how to save democracy in this country, he said. “The kind of action that the BJP government has taken against the CMs of Delhi and Jharkhand is a massive assault on democracy and the Constitution,” said Pawar, invoking BR Ambedkar through his message to save democracy whenever there is an assault on it and the Constitution.

“When we have all gathered here, the signal from here is that those ruling Delhi are not here for long… They have given a slogan of ‘400 paar’, if you were getting those numbers, why are you scared of the AAP? You have sent CM Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren to jail. I come from UP, which welcomed you, but remember that these very people can send you packing also,” said Akhilesh Yadav. O’Brien, meanwhile, said though Kejriwal and Soren were not present, two chairs were kept for them. Commenting on the apparent differences between the Congress and TMC, as well as Banerjee’s absence, he reiterated that his party “was, is and will be part of the INDIA alliance”.

Tejashwi – whose alliance partner in Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), recently joined hands with the BJP once again, said, “We are seeing that there is an undeclared emergency in the country today. Those in power have adopted the route of dictators, they have become arrogant.”

Referring to Kalpana and Sunita, Thackeray, who was present for a brief while with his son Aaditya Thackeray, said, “Our two sisters are fighting courageously. When sisters are fighting, how can the brothers be left behind? Don’t worry, not just us, but the entire country is with you. Earlier, there was an apprehension whether our country is headed towards dicatorship, now that is not an apprehension any more, it is a reality,” he said, adding, “if the BJP feels that by arresting Soren ji and Kejriwal ji, it will instil fear in the minds of people, it is wrong. People know how to fight…”

“Our purpose today is just one – save the Constitution. Even the Chief Justice of India is being threatened,” said Abdullah, adding “I was very happy that Mehbooba ji came here. We will remain with INDIA as long as we are alive.”

Mufti, meanwhile, said: “The country is going through tough times – ‘na koi vakil, na koi daleel, na koi karwahi, aur seedhe jail. Maybe this is Kalyug’s Amrit Kaal. I am not talking about Umar Khalid, who has been in jail for the past two years, I am not talking about Siddiqui Kappan, Mohammad Zubair. I am talking about your elected representatives you vote for – MLAs, MPs, CMs, ministers – how they are being put behind bars without any trial. This is not a matter of surprise for us. We have seen this in Jammu and Kashmir for the past five years.”

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