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Home / Politics / Policy /  Kejriwal confronts Centre as AAP returns to activist mode in Delhi

New Delhi: Three weeks after it took charge of the Delhi administration, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) slipped back into activist mode on Monday, confronting the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the issue of women’s safety in Delhi and alleged police non-cooperation.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP took to the streets in central Delhi, demanding action against policemen who allegedly refused to cooperate with his law minister Somnath Bharti during a raid last week on a suspected drug and prostitution den in a south Delhi neighbourhood.

The activist turned politician, who is looking at expanding his party base to other states ahead of the Lok Sabha election due by May, used the moment to renew his appeal to its core constituency—mainly the politically disenfranchised urban poor.

“It is important to understand why the chief minister of Delhi had to come down to protest," Kejriwal told reporters and party supporters near Rail Bhawan in central Delhi. “We are not doing it for our sake. In Delhi, police takes money from autowallahs. Today we are standing here for them. In Delhi, the police takes money from street vendors. Today we are standing here for them. We stand here to bring justice to those women who get raped in Delhi, for women who are burnt alive, for women who are forcefully pushed into prostitution."

Kejriwal, who had earlier requested Delhi-ites not to join the proposed stir for security reasons, on Monday went back on his words and appealed to the people to join “the war of independence".

The day also saw a verbal duel between police officers and AAP leaders and supporters who claimed that AAP minister Saurabh Bhardwaj was injured in police action.

Heavy security was deployed in the heart of the national capital. Kejriwal remained seated in the middle of a small park near Rail Bhawan, only metres away from the thoroughfare that is used for the annual Republic Day parade on 26 January.

For security reasons, four metro stations—Jor Bagh, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Patel Chowk—were shut. These stations serve areas with scores of government offices, and authorities fear the stir could disrupt commuter movement.

“Some people say I am an anarchist... I agree I am an anarchist. There is disorder everywhere, inflation is hurting everyone; now we want disorder in the house of the home minister," Delhi’s chief minister said.

Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has said an enquiry has been set up by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (LG) into Thursday night’s police raid.

“LG has asked for a judicial enquiry and it is a big step," Shinde told reporters. “Responsibility will be fixed independently without any outside influence."

Kejriwal, however, declared that neither the Delhi government nor any of his ministers would cooperate in the “useless" enquiry and requested residents of that area to join in the boycott. He wants immediate action to be taken against the allegedly guilty policemen and said he is ready to sit in agitation for the next 10 days.

“Women (in Delhi) keep on getting raped. Police says investigation is on but that is not enough. If a rape happens, someone has to be held accountable," he said.

In December of 2012, the national capital was shaken by a series of public protests against the gang rape of a young woman who later succumbed to her injuries sustained in a violent assault. It made women’s safety a key issue in the assembly elections last year that saw the Congress government in Delhi being humbled to third position.

Some political analysts say Monday’s stir is a move aimed at diverting attention away from some public slips, like the confrontation between law minister Bharti and the police as well as the public rebellion by AAP legislator, Vinod Kumar Binny.

The fresh face-off with the central government may also put the focus on the AAP’s tenuous relationship with the Congress, which supports the AAP government from the outside.

The AAP government’s agitation appeared to be aimed at mobilizing its voter base, said Manisha Priyam, a Delhi-based political analyst.

“For the first victory, he took the poor and the middle class together and he is certainly concentrating on building up that core constituency," she said. “This is not just about diverting public attention but also stepping up the ante... The AAP is (politically) in a gaining position, which is why it has taken this up."

Both the Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the protest.

“They are brilliant agitationists... They should remain agitationists," rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, adding that the way the AAP has behaved in governance was “shocking".

The AAP “needs to make transition from agitators to administrators", Manish Tewari, minister of information and broadcasting, said in a tweet.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, too, criticized the AAP.

“This is most unfortunate and unprecedented. He should not forget that he formed the government on the basis of the common man," BJP leader Harsh Vardhan told reporters. “Four metro stations have been shut and lakhs of people have been inconvenienced."

“There is no option. If Delhi government is to be accountable for governance, Delhi Police must be reorganized and the law enforcement and community policing, etc., must be moved under Delhi government," Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Rajya Sabha member, said in a statement.

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