The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday alleged that Delhi Police kept chief minister Arvind Kejriwal “virtually” under house arrest since he returned after meeting protesting farmers camped at the Singhu border on Monday afternoon. Police denied the contention, saying there was only “general deployment” outside the CM’s residence, and his movement was not barred in any way.
AAP’s chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said on Tuesday morning that no one, not even domestic help, had been allowed to leave or enter the CM’s official residence since Monday, and Kejriwal had to cancel all scheduled meetings on Tuesday. This, he alleged, was being done on directions from the Union home ministry to stop the chief minister from standing with the farmers in their call for a Bharat Bandh to oppose three contentious farm laws that they want repealed.
“On a day when the entire country is supporting the farmers in the Bharat Bandh, the central government’s home ministry has asked the Delhi Police to not allow Kejriwal to leave his residence. Yesterday, when Kejriwal along with all his Cabinet colleagues, went to Singhu border to meet the protesting farmers as a sewadar (volunteer), the central government got scared. It’s like how they got upset when Kejriwal did not allow the Delhi Police to convert nine stadiums into temporary jails for the farmers,” he said.
He also said that a protest by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) municipal corporation mayors and other leaders in front of the CM’s residence on Tuesday morning was a ploy to keep Kejriwal confined.
Soon after Bhardwaj’s media briefing, special commissioner of police (law and order) Satish Golcha termed AAP’s claims “totally baseless and unfounded”.
“There’s absolutely no restriction. The CM has been making usual engagements and he has been moving out of his residence for any engagement whatsoever,” Golcha said.
The issue snowballed at around the time deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and AAP Lok Sabha MP Bhagwant Mann were on a sit-in outside the CM’s residence after dramatically trying to get through the barricades and enter Kejriwal’s house along with several party workers.
The police stopped them, saying only Sisodia and elected representatives would be allowed on the grounds that entry to the CM’s residence is based on prior appointment, except for public hearing hours, which last for about an hour every day. The AAP leaders, however, demanded entry for all. As the sit-in protest in front of the CM’s residence continued, police allowed all party workers to enter the premises at around 5.30pm.
Kejriwal addressed the gathering shortly afterwards, saying he was barred from joining the protesting farmers. “I congratulate the farmers and the people of the country who made this Bharat Bandh successful. Just like I went to Singhu border yesterday, I had planned to go to the border as a sewadar today as well, to peacefully sit with the farmers. But I guess they (the Central government) understood my planning, and consequently did not allow me to go,” he said.
Kejriwal added that Union home minister Amit Shah was meeting farmers later on Tuesday, with another meeting scheduled on Wednesday. “I hope the Central government finally accepts the valid demands of the farmers,” he said.
When contacted, police said they cordoned off a small portion in front of the CM’s residence for security reasons as mayors and councillors of the three BJP-ruled corporations continued to be on a sit-in protest for the second consecutive day over alleged unpaid dues to the MCDs. On Tuesday, they were joined by more BJP leaders, including MPs Meenakshi Lekhi and Parvesh Verma.
Police said security was beefed up to avoid any clashes between workers of the two parties.
Deputy commissioner of police (north) Anto Alphonse said that the AAP workers accompanying Sisodia were stopped because they had no prior appointment. “Yet, we did not stop anyone from meeting the CM. We were in continuous touch with the CM’s office, and when they were asked to come in, Sisodia and other AAP members were allowed,” he said.
The police also released a CCTV video apparently showing Kejriwal visiting a hotel on Monday night, and contended that the CM had attended a wedding there, to back their claim that there was no bar on his movement. The Delhi government spokesperson did not respond to a query about the footage released by the police.
“The proclamation of Kejriwal’s Bharat Bandh failed. So he pretended to be in house arrest while the entry to his house remained open throughout the day. On Monday night, he went to Singhu border and attended weddings. After doing everything, he is now not going out of the house today because he will have to face the leaders of the municipal corporations. CM Kejriwal is not in house arrest, he is resting in the house,” BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi said.