It’s not without reason that Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal makes a grave allegation about the possibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party plotting to eliminate him and others associated with AAP.
While some may pooh-pooh Kejriwal’s allegations, the fact is that India’s history is replete with incidents where those in power have conspired to eliminate political rivals and potential challengers. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s unexplained disappearance and the mysterious deaths/assassinations of leaders like Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Sanjay Gandhi, Lalit Narayan Mishra, Chandrasekhar Prasad and Haren Pandya are just few instances in the long list of alleged political elimination in India.
Those who are mocking Kejriwal are either ignorant of India’s political history or they live in a fool’s paradise. In fact there are many political observers who have been concerned about the safety of Delhi CM for months now, considering the track-record of the incumbent Prime Minister and his closest aide Amit Shah, who is also the BJP President today, in alleged misuse of state apparatus for purging of rivals and opponents.
Haren Pandya murder case
Haren Pandya, the ex-Revenue Minister of Gujarat, was once an accomplice of Modi but allegedly turned into his rival. He is believed to have disclosed information related to 2002 post-Godhra riots before the Concerned Citizens Tribunal.
Pandya apparently told the tribunal, which was investigating the state government’s complicity in 2002 riots, that Modi (the then Chief Minister of Gujarat) had chaired a meeting of ministers and senior bureaucrats on the night of 27 February, 2002 in which he urged them to allow ‘Hindus to vent their anger’ in response to the burning of train by Muslims in Godhra.
While recording his statements before the tribunal, Pandya had requested the probing panel not to disclose his name. However, members within the State establishment came to know somehow that it was Pandya who had leaked the crucial details. He soon began receiving death threats and was eventually murdered.
Haren’s father Vithal Pandya claims that his son’s assassination in 2003 was a planned, political murder. Vithal had minced no words while blaming Modi for his son’s assassination.
Amit Shah’s notorious legacy
The current BJP President and Modi’s right-hand Shah on the other hand has had a notorious reputation. As the Home Minister of Gujarat, Shah has been accused of ordering fake encounters, kidnapping witnesses, running an extortion racket and hiring criminals to shoot up a rival’s headquarters.
Shah is one of the prime accused in the extrajudicial killings of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh, wife Kauser Bi and aide Tulsiram Prajapati. It was alleged that the killings of all the three were orchestrated by senior police officers at the behest of Home Minister Shah.
More than 10 police officers were subsequently arrested for the killings of Sheikh, Bi and Prajapati.
It is rather intriguing that the CBI Special Court reportedly dropped charges against Shah apparently in the absence of legal evidence against him in December 2014, just a few months after Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India in May the same year.
Shah has also been accused of sidelining the police officers who testified against the Gujarat government in cases related to the fake encounters and the 2002 riots.
In 2013, Shah was accused of having ordered illegal surveillance on a woman in 2009, during his tenure as the Gujarat Home Minister which was dubbed as ‘Snoopgate’ case. Later in May 2014 however, the concerned woman approached the Supreme Court and made a rather ridiculous submission stating that the surveillance on her was based on a ‘personal request’, and that she was thankful to the Gujarat government for ensuring her safety. The jury is out on whether the woman made her submission under ‘political’ pressure.
Modi and Shah have vehemently denied all accusations calling them political propaganda.
Now let’s focus on what’s been happening in Delhi. Ever since Arvind Kejriwal came to power in Delhi with a historic election victory in February 2015 despite BJP, and the Prime Minister in particular, throwing all their might; Modi has been using all the resources at his disposal (LG, Delhi Police, CBI, MCD and even the disputed ACB) to destabilise the AAP government.
Both Modi and Shah, after all, have the reputation of not taking an electoral defeat lightly
The Centre, therefore, has entangled the Delhi government over jurisdiction issues and rejected nearly all the bills cleared by the state assembly. Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung’s shoulders have been used more than frequently to lob ‘administrative grenades’ at the AAP government in an attempt to ‘kill’ it at the best and ‘paralyse’ it at the worst.
The battle over jurisdiction is already being fought in the courts.
Moreover, the diabolic manner in which the BJP-led Centre has used the might of the state against AAP MLAs and its leadership or those perceived close to the fledgling party in recent times is rather unparalleled in the history of Indian politics.
The high-handedness with which Delhi Police has gone about arresting AAP MLAs and lodging FIRs against party leaders and members leave no doubt that they have been given specific instructions to that end by their political masters.
Just think of it: Has the Delhi Police ever shown such alacrity or brutal force in apprehending the most wanted of criminals that it exhibits when it comes to filing a case against an AAP leader or arresting one of its MLAs?
The police routinely despatches nearly a battalion to arrest an AAP MLA. They are lifted (at times at wee hours) from all sorts of places – offices, homes, press conferences included. The force size required to arrest an unarmed elected representative is such that it may give complex to hardened criminals.
Also, it appears that the flimsiest of accusations or the remotest of links is enough to lodge an FIR against an AAP leader. If there aren’t any links to be found, the police reportedly shows amazing efficacy in manipulating the complainant in a manner that an AAP leader/MLA is implicated.
Centre escalates aggression
The week starting 24 July has seen a noticeable aggressive escalation by Modi government on this strategy. Let us try and understand the pattern objectively:
On Sunday (July 24), two AAP MLAs were arrested – Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan was taken into custody on the basis of a woman’s accusation despite a sting released by AAP a day earlier showing the same woman admitting that severe and wrong charges were included in the FIR at the behest of the SHO of the local police station.
Mehrauli MLA Naresh Yadav was arrested by Punjab Police at behest of the BJP-SAD state government for his alleged links with an individual accused of desecration of the Quran in Malerkotala.
On Monday (July 25), AAP’s MP from Sangrur Bhagwant Mann was suspended over filming the Parliament security despite an unconditional apology. MPs from BJP and Congress, who otherwise don’t see eye-to-eye, came together in seeking harshest of penalties against the AAP MP.
On Tuesday (July 26), Delhi Police booked AAP’s Janakpuri MLA Rajesh Rishi and a woman party volunteer for abetment to suicide and extortion after a Janakpuri resident accused the two of harassing her.
The arrest is merely on the basis of an accusation by the complainant.
Also on Tuesday, Delhi Police registered an FIR against the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief, Swati Maliwal (wife of AAP leader Navin Jaihind; Maliwal is also considered close to Kejriwal), for allegedly revealing the identity of a 14-year-old Dalit rape victim, who died on Sunday.
The irony is that Maliwal had mentioned the name of the victim in an official letter to the police seeking arrest of the accused. How is one expected to refer to victim’s case in an official letter otherwise? Police, afterall, is anyway privy to the identity of the victim.
On Wednesday (July 27), the Centre’s income tax department carried out a search and seizure operation on three premises of AAP’s Chhatarpur MLA Kartar Singh Tanwar and his associates.
Also on Wednesday, AAP MLA from Narela Sharad Yadav interrogated for nine hours by Delhi Police’s Crime Branch in the alleged suicide of a party worker.
On Thursday, (July 28), BJP’s 17 women MPs led by Meenakshi Lekhi along with four more BJP MPs from Delhi handed over a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee demanding action against Delhi CM, an AAP MLA and his supporters for driving a woman to kill herself after she was allegedly sexually harassed by the legislator. BJP has already demanded derecognition of AAP by the Election Commision on this issue.
Besides, a number of FIRs/complains/PILs and other court cases have been filed against many other AAP leaders including Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Kumar Vishwas, Kapil Mishra, Rakhi Birla, Ashish Khetan, Raghav Chadha, Dilip Pandey and Ashutosh.
On last count, 12 AAP MLAs were arrested and 21 MLAs face dismissal in office of profit case.
Add to that the CBI raid on the Chief Minister’s Office last December, which subsequently led to the arrest of Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar and deputy secretary Tarun Sharma on 4 July.
Iintriguingly on the same day, the Central Ministry of Home Affairs, also transferred Kejriwal’s assistant secretary to Andaman drawing allegations from AAP that all of this is a part of the larger plan of paralysing the Delhi government.
Modi’s BJP wants to destroy AAP
The obvious question is: Why is Modi escalating his confrontation with Kejriwal and to what extent can he and the BJP go to see the end of AAP?
And the obvious answer to this is: The phenomenal support that AAP is generating in other states such as Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and even in Modi’s own bastion Gujarat is naturally making the PM and BJP jittery. And therefore, they can go to any extent to check AAP’s rise.
The success of AAP government in Delhi in fundamental areas such as education and health despite all odds is offering a new model of governance in the country. AAP has also been extremely vocal in demolishing the myth of Modi’s so-called ‘Gujarat Model’.
Being in the capital under 24×7 media scrutiny has allowed Kejriwal to punch above his weight in projecting himself as the main challenger against Modi. With Congress in the decline, AAP is directly pitching itself against BJP as the main national opposition and gaining substantial traction among the youth too.
With elections in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat due in less than a year, BJP is anxious what AAP might do. Gujarat and Goa have BJP government while in Punjab, BJP is in power with its ally Shiromani Akali Dal. A good show by AAP in these states is likely to have far-reaching implication in national politics, and not a favourable one for BJP.
If AAP happens to register even a single win (all surveys and polls point towards a landslide in Punjab), it will become the only political party after BJP and the Congress to have governments in more than one states.
It is bound to add to its national appeal and who knows what would be the implication of a rising AAP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
It is, therefore, not difficult to fathom the nervousness of BJP and, more so, of Modi. Going by the Centre’s action in Delhi, it is rather evident that Modi wants to destroy AAP. He has been successful, to a certain extent, in crippling the AAP government in Delhi.
The strategy for BJP for now is to throw as much mud as possible on AAP and Kejriwal with the hope that some of it would stick. The BJP realises that they can’t stop AAP from winning Punjab and making a good start in other states, so it is constantly using devious means to make a case against AAP’s derecognition by the Election Commission. The aim is to block AAP from contesting elections.
There are enough signs that Modi wants to nip AAP (as a rising national political force) and Kejriwal (as a potential political challenger) in the bud by any means. And this is where the danger lies. What if Modi fails to contain AAP in Delhi? What would he do? If one goes by the Gujarat experience, Modi and Shah could go to any extent.
Is it really difficult to see where Arvind Kejriwal comes from when he says: “This is a critical time. All of you introspect and also discuss it with your families. The face-off is set to get dirtier in the time to come. They can go to any extent. They may kill us. They may even kill me. They could do anything. Talk to your families.”
The fact is that death threats have been made to Kejriwal and other AAP leaders on Twitter from handles that are followed by the Prime Minister. Shouldn’t Modi be held accountable for following and tacitly backing such individuals who make death threats to his political rivals?
Kejriwal had rightly described the ongoing battle between him and Modi as a dharmayuddha (holy war) on the lines of Mahabharata. “He (PM Modi) could not digest his defeat. They have put all the agencies behind us, but could not unearth a single act of corruption. It’s a holy war akin to the war between Kauravas and Pandavas.”
(The author is a Gulf-based Indian journalist. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of JantaKaReporter)