NEW DELHI: India once used to give the world lessons on democracy, but under Prime Minister Narendra Modi it has been ‘reduced’ to “imitating detractors of democracy” in Pakistan, Russia and Bangladesh, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday.

He is currently campaigning in the Indian state of Punjab where his ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ (AAP) holds power, as well as in Maharashtra, where the opposition ‘INDIA’ alliance hopes to clinch a majority of the 48 seats up for grabs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Kejriwal claims that Modi is ‘losing the election’. “Should he win by any chance; he would have stolen a leaf from President Vladmir Putin, who has jailed his opponents to win with a huge margin.”

Kejriwal alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ‘locked up’ various political opponents and killed others to score high at the hustings.

He termed the incarcerated founder-chairman of the PTI, Imran Khan as “the tallest leader of Pakistan” and said he too, was jailed by his opponents to contrive his defeat.

The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, was similarly accused by Kejriwal of jailing political opponents to ‘steal the election’.

“If he wins, Modi will definitely jail Udhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawaramong, among others” he stated, whilst pointing to the opposition ‘INDIA’ alliance hosts, present at the meeting.

Kejriwal secured bail after the Supreme Court intervened to give him ‘21 days of freedom’. This permits him to canvass support for his AAP party and allies, before returning to jail on the 2 of June.

“I have to return to jail before the votes are counted” he had said earlier, at an AAP meeting held in Delhi. “If we win, I’ll be out on June 5, otherwise I am going to be in prison for a long term.”

Kejriwal and the deputy chief minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia, are among the senior leaders jailed on alleged charges of ‘corruption’ under a ‘draconian money-laundering law’.

“The dictatorship that is going on in our country is not acceptable. India has never seen such a period in the past 75 years, putting opposition leaders in jail” Kejriwal stated in Punjab.

He added that the Modi-led government was ‘harassing’ leaders of the Indian National Congress, Mamata Banerjee’s ‘TMC Party’ and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, MK Stalin’s ‘DMK’, who are amongst the BJP’s main political opponents.

“Put everyone in jail. Then only one party and one leader will remain but democracy will not survive. We do not have to let this happen” said Kejriwal.

He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21. Earlier this month, the Sup­reme Court gave Kejriwal a 21-day respite from jail via interim bail.

FIR against secretary

The remarks come a day after the Delhi police registered an FIR against Kejriwal’s secretary, Bibhav Kumar, for ‘allegedly assaulting’ an AAP woman MP, Swati Maliwal.

Maliwal has accused Kumar of slapping and punching her in Kejriwal’s drawing room. She claims Kejriwal was inside the house when the alleged incident took place.

On Thursday, during a joint INDIA bloc press conference, Kejriwal appeared to be deflecting journalists’ questions regarding Swati Maliwal. However, AAP leader Ms. Atishi, while commenting on the Maliwal assault case on Friday, said that the incident is a ‘conspiracy by the BJP’ to frame Kejriwal.

Atishi, in a press conference in the Indian capital New Delhi, said that Maliwal — a party MP in the Rajya Sabha — reached Kejriwal’s residence without a prior appointment. “Her (Maliwal) intention was to level allegations against Arvind Kejriwal,” Atishi stated.

Swati Maliwal insisted on meeting Kejriwal, but his aide Bibhav Kumar informed her that the CM is busy; she then shouted and tried to barge in, the Delhi State Minister said.

“The whole incident proves that it was a BJP conspiracy and Swati Maliwal was made its face to frame Kejriwal” she alleged. Dismissing Maliwal’s claims that she was brutally assaulted, Atishi noted that a video surfaced on May 17, depicting an “entirely different reality”.

In Rae Bareli, senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi braved the heat to address a massive rally staged jointly by the Congress and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.

She said she had given Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi the same values that she inherited from her mother-in-law the late prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

“Think always for the upliftment of the poor, and never be deterred or frightened by anything that comes in your way to do the people’s bidding.” The crowd subsequently roared in approval.

Rahul Gandhi is a candidate from Rae Bareli, where Indira Gandhi too, had contested elections. It was originally her husband Feroze Gandhi’s constituency.

Rahul also addressed a big meeting in neighbouring Amethi (his old constituency), from where he is fielding an old family loyalist, Kishori Lal Sharma. Sharma is up against the BJP’s Smriti Irani.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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