Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said that the homes and shops of 63 lakh residents of the city would be bulldozed if the Bharatiya Janata Party-run civic bodies continued their demolition drives.

The civic bodies in Delhi have carried out anti-encroachment drives in several parts of the city since last month. However, political parties and activists have accused the BJP of targeting Muslim-dominated areas.

In a video message on Monday, Kejriwal said that the Aam Aadmi Party did not support encroachment either, but was opposed to the manner in which the illegal structures were being demolished.

“They [BJP] are planning to demolish all unauthorised colonies, slums and have a list of partial encroachments,” the chief minister said. “This would make about 63 lakh residents homeless...This will be the biggest destruction of independent India...Bulldozing won’t be tolerated.”

Kejriwal said that as a result of the unplanned expansion of Delhi over the years, 80% of the city’s structures have been built on encroached plots of land. “Question arises, would 80% of the city be demolished?”

He questioned the BJP on what it had done to find a solution to the problem of encroachment after being in power of the city’s civic bodies for 15 years.

“Let [civic body] elections happen, and let the new MCD [Municipal Corporation of Delhi] take a decision,” he said. “We assure Delhiites that we [AAP] will resolve the encroachment issue, will regularise unauthorised colonies, will get Delhi rid of slums.”

The current term of Delhi’s councillors ends on May 18. The State Election Commission had initially scheduled the corporation polls on March 9. The elections were then scheduled for April. Later, the Commission had deferred the polling indefinitely, citing a communication from Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal after a Bill to merge the three civic bodies of the city was introduced in the Union Cabinet.

The Bill was passed in Parliament and the Act to merge the civic bodies was notified last month.

Kejriwal trying to scare citizens, says Delhi BJP president

Meanwhile, the BJP’s Delhi unit chief Adesh Gupta accused Kejriwal of scaring and blackmailing the citizens of Delhi, PTI reported.

“Kejriwal has expressed his pain so I want to assure that no Bangladeshis, Rohingyas, rioters and those involved in illegal activities and who are protected by AAP, will be spared,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

No Delhiites living in slum clusters or unauthorised colonies need to worry, as the Narendra Modi government stands with them, he added.

“The Modi government has given ownership rights to 40 lakh people in unauthorised colonies, which the AAP could not do despite being in power for over seven years.”

The demolition drive in Delhi

The civic bodies have so far razed homes and shops in Jahangirpuri, Tughlakabad, Madanpur Khadar, Mangolpuri and New Friends Colony, Mangolpuri and Khyala amongst other areas of the city.

The Jahangirpuri demolitions were carried out on April 20, just four days after the locality was hit by communal violence. The drive had continued for a few hours despite a stay order from the Supreme Court. Almost all the structures targeted were owned by Muslims.

On May 9, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation had planned to conduct a demolition drive in the Shaheen Bagh area, one of the prominent sites of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests. However, it stopped after a massive protest erupted.

On May 11, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation carried out the demolition exercise in the city’s Najafgarh, Dwarka and Lodhi Colony. Civic authorities and the police had faced strong objections from residents and members of the Opposition parties.