As Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal continued his standoff with the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (L-G), four chief ministers came together for an unprecedented show of Opposition unity, albeit without the Congress.
The four chief ministers who expressed support for Kejriwal on Saturday were West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.
Addressing the media, a fiery Mamata Banerjee sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention, saying, "The mandate of the people must be respected."
She said, "If this is the condition of Delhi, it sends the wrong message to the rest of the country...We did not take this step immediately, but waited for six days. I had sent a message to Arvind ji three days earlier as well."
"They (members of the Delhi government) say that they are not being allowed to work. We will certainly raise this issue with the prime minister. It is our right to do so," Banerjee asserted.
The West Bengal chief minister sidestepped the issue of the Congress' absence from the press conference, saying, "The Congress has its own presence in Delhi. I don't want to comment on this."
The other three chief ministers also addressed the media, but they restricted themselves to making brief statements.
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy too sought the prime minister's intervention, saying, "We came here to show our support to the Delhi chief minister, and to save the democratic system in the country."
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu said, "Our demand is very clear. They (Centre) must allow this government to function smoothly. The Centre and the state must work together. The problem has to be sorted out."
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed 'solidarity' with the Delhi government, saying, "All democratic-thinking people are with the Delhi chief minister...The Centre is restricting the federal system which is a threat to the nation."
After the press conference, Kejriwal said:
We all will work together to save democracy. Thank u so much.
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) June 16, 2018
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha expressed gratitude to the four leaders, saying, "Sincerely thank West Bengal chief minister, Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Karnataka chief minister and Kerala chief minister for their support. They spent time with (Kejriwal's) family, checked on the health of ministers and then held an extraordinarily powerful press conference."
The BJP reacted to the press conference, saying:
Before supporting Arvind Kejriwal, CM Mamata Banerjee, Shri N Chandrababu Naidu, Shri H D Kumaraswamy and Shri Pinarayi Vijayan must clarify if they endorse AAP leader Sukhpal Khaira’s statement supporting Referendum 2020 that asks for Punjab’s secession from the Indian Union.
— BJP Delhi (@BJP4Delhi) June 16, 2018
Earlier in the day, Mamata Banerjee attended a meeting at Andhra Bhawan with her counterparts — Vijayan, Kumaraswamy and Naidu.
They then visited Kejriwal's residence, where they met his wife and other members of his family. Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel was also present.
The four chief ministers also wrote a joint letter to L-G Anil Baijal, seeking to meet Kejriwal who is on a protest at the L-G's office-cum-residence, Raj Niwas.
"All of us would like to make a representation to you with respect to the issues concerning the Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal. Please grant us a meeting slot today (Saturday) as we are waiting. We request you to give us time around 9 pm," it read.
On the meeting of four chief ministers, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Raghav Chadha said: "This is a teaching for Prime Minister Narendra Modi — no matter how much he tries to kill democracy, our struggle will continue. Kejriwal is getting support from four elected chief ministers."
The four chief ministers met shortly after Baijal declined permission to Banerjee to meet Kejriwal. She had planned to go to the protest site — the Lt Governor's residential office — along with Naidu.
Kejriwal, along with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Cabinet ministers Satyendar Jain and Gopal Rai, has been camping at Raj Niwas since Monday demanding a direction to the IAS officers working in the Delhi administration to end their undeclared strike.
He also wants the central government to approve his government's proposal to deliver ration to the poor at their houses.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Jun 16, 2018 23:15 PM