Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has accused Union Home Minister Amit Shah of letting the Shaheen Bagh blockade of a critical road continue for close to two months only for electoral gains. “Why are they not ending the protest – can a home minister as powerful as Amit Shah not get a road vacated?” Kejriwal said in an interview with the Hindustan Times. “They are trying to polarise the voters.” Assembly elections for all 70 seats in Delhi will be held on February 8, and the results will be announced on February 11.
Shaheen Bagh has emerged as a centre of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the proposed National Register of Citizens. Hundreds of women have been peacefully protesting at Shaheen Bagh since December 15, against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Kejriwal also expressed dismay over what he termed a campaign of “abuse and violence” being run by the Bharatiya Janata Party. “I say let’s make more schools; they say Shaheen Bagh,” he said. “I say, let’s build more hospitals; they say Shaheen Bagh. I talk about uninterrupted power supply; they say Shaheen Bagh. Is there no other issue in Delhi?”
Asked to comment on the anti-Citizenship Act protest at Shaheen Bagh, Kejriwal said it was an issue only because of the blocked road. “Otherwise, it’s not a Delhi specific issue but a national one,” he told The Times of India. He added that the road should be opened. “It is obstructing school buses and ambulances and causing a half-an-hour to stretch over three hours,” said the Aam Aadmi Party leader. “He [Shah] does not want to get the road opened because he wants to keep the Shaheen Bagh issue alive.”
Asked why he had not gone to the protest site, Kejriwal said he did not want to put more attention on what is the BJP’s only campaign plank. “The protest is causing problems to several people,” he told the Hindustan Times. “The biggest gainers from the Shaheen Bagh protest are the BJP. Why should I support something which helps the BJP? Why should I keep the Shaheen Bagh issue alive for BJP to take benefit of it? There’s no question of that.”
On Tuesday, the Delhi Police claimed that the gunman who fired shots in Shaheen Bagh on February 1 was a member of the Aam Aadmi Party. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Rajesh Deo said photographs recovered from Kapil Gujjar’s phone established that the shooter had joined the Arvind Kejriwal-led party a year ago along with his father. The photographs, which were not independently verified, reportedly showed the shooter with AAP leaders Atishi and Sanjay Singh. Atishi is a candidate in the elections, while Singh is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Deo was taken off poll duty by the Election Commission on Wednesday. The Election Commission pointed out that the officer’s statements were “totally uncalled for” and had “consequences for the holding of free and fair elections”.
After Deo’s comments to the media, the Aam Aadmi Party had questioned the police investigation. The party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh accused the officer of acting at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and said he should pin the lotus – the BJP’s symbol – on his shirt. The saffron party, meanwhile, claimed that the AAP had been exposed.