Delhi on Sunday witnessed a massive show of strength by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, as thousands of people gathered on the streets of the capital to protest the alleged four-month-long strike by IAS officers working in various departments in the Delhi government. Protesters were transported to Mandi House by bus, from where they marched to Parliament street, shouting slogans demanding that the IAS officers end their strike, and also that Delhi be granted full statehood.
Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh led the procession, which comprised of thousands of men and women from various parts of the capital. Addressing the protesters, he said, "Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and three of his colleagues have been sitting in protest in the Lieutenant Governor’s office for the last six days. But the L-G did not even care to listen to their grievances."
He further said, “The IAS officers in the Delhi government have been on strike for the past four months, because of which a democratically elected government has been facing tremendous difficulties. How will a government function without officers?”
Singh accused the BJP-led central government of having a role in the strike and said, "Whenever the BJP is frightened, it takes recourse to the police force." He further asserted, "We will stop only after full statehood to Delhi is granted."
Raghav Chadha sought to respond to criticism that the protest was a ploy to divert attention from the shortcomings of the government. He said, "Arvind Kejriwal could have chosen the luxurious life of a chief minister, but he did not. Rather, he chose the path of struggle to meet the aspirations of the people in Delhi. Even today, he is holding a sit-in protest at the LG’s office."
Ram Niwas Goel, Speaker of the Delhi Assembly, was seen speaking on a microphone while sitting on top of a vehicle alongside Sanjay Singh. He said, “As per protocol, it is not right for the Speaker to participate in such political rallies. But what is the use of protocols which cannot fulfill the wishes of the people? This is why I decided to participate in the rally.”
This show of strength comes less than a year before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and has a significant political implication. The protest not only brought into focus the possibility of a rainbow coalition against the ruling NDA, but also highlighted the Congress' incompatibility with such permutations and combinations.
Arvind Kejriwal and three of his cabinet colleagues have been holding a protest on this issue in the waiting room of the L-G's office for the last six days.
During the protest on Sunday, there was heavy deployment of security personnel. The police had kept barricades and water cannons ready to control the crowd. While the protest march was meant to head to the prime minister’s residence, it was stopped at Parliament Street.
The chief ministers of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala on Saturday had rallied behind Arvind Kejriwal. While they went to meet him in the L-G’s office, they were not allowed to do so.
The issue of full statehood for Delhi may become a rallying point for Opposition parties, and the AAP's vow to continue the protest can be seen in this context.
The face-off between the Delhi government and the IAS officers working with it began in February, when chief secretary Anshu Prakash alleged that he was physically assaulted by two AAP MLAs. The AAP has claimed that the IAS officers have been on strike since the incident, but the officers have denied this claim.
Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 15:25 PM