New Delhi: In a clear sign that the AAP government was on its last legs, the Congress and the BJP joined hands to paralyse the Delhi assembly on Thursday, forcing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to say he will quit if his attempts to pass the Jan Lokpal bill failed on Friday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (R) delivers a statement as Minister for Education, PWD and Urban Development, Manish Sisodia looks on during a press conference in New Delhi on February 11, 2014. Pic: AFP
In a dramatic U-turn from the time the Congress mocked at the Bharatiya Janata Party when it extended critical support to Kejriwal Dec 28, the two parties came together to taunt the chief minister and his party, targeting Law Minister Somnath Bharti in particular.
Kejriwal, 45, bore through 70 minutes of heckling and ugly sloganeering, only to declare later: "This is the first time in India both the Congress and the BJP had such a synchronized setting.
“It was very well coordinated... This is what we wanted," he said, speaking partly in Hindi and partly in English.
Unable to speak in the house, Kejriwal -- who had wanted to distribute copies of the Jan Lokpal bill to all legislators -- told the media later that he would resign if the bill wasn’t passed Friday in the assembly.
"We will try to introduce the bill tomorrow. If it gets beaten and defeated by the Congress and BJP, I will resign.”
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is desperate to pass the bill, which aims to check corruption in high places, during the four-day session which started Thursday.
But this is impossible with the 31-member BJP, the biggest group in the assembly, the eight-member Congress, the lone Janata Dal-United legislator and an independent virtually banding together.
The AAP won 28 seats in the December election. But one member has rebelled and has been expelled.
Kejriwal had wanted a special session to be held Saturday and Sunday to pass the bill but that appears near impossible without the sanction of the majority in the house.
Kejriwal came down strongly on the BJP and the Congress, which ostensibly props up his minority government.
Congress and BJP members repeatedly came up to Speaker M.S. Dhir of the AAP and forcibly turned his microphones towards them to raise slogans against the AAP and Bharti.
The house witnessed unending uproar since Thursday afternoon, with Congress and BJP members demanding the resignation of Somnath Bharti over his alleged misbehaviour with African women.
The chief minister said the reason for the BJP-Congress bonhomie was his government's steps against a leading business house.
This, he said, prompted the two parties to oppose the AAP "aggressively".
"No business could take place because the BJP and Congress had decided that they will not let the house function.
"How is it possible that both parties wanted to have discussion on the same (Bharti) issue? They kept disrupting the house again and again.”
Speaker Dhir adjourned the house four times as BJP and Congress members trooped towards him shouting slogans.
BJP legislators Kulwant Rana and R.P. Singh heckled Bharti and tore papers kept on his table.
They also taunted activist-turned-politician Kejriwal, pointing fingers at him.
Congress legislator Asif Muhammad Khan, who has been at his aggressive best against the AAP for some time, was the most noisy.
Khan, a legislator from Okhla in south Delhi, climbed atop the speaker's podium and tore legislative papers kept there.
He then approached Kejriwal and broke the microphone on his desk before tearing official papers.
The pandemonium had no effect on the AAP benches. All its 27 legislators sat through the commotion seemingly unruffled.
Kejriwal didn't speak during the disturbances but watched it all keenly. So did Education Minister Manish Sisodia, who was, as usual, seated by his side.
Expelled AAP member Vinod Kumar Binny was present in the house but did not take part in the disturbances. But Janata Dal-United’s Shoaib Iqbal as well as independent Rambeer Shokeen were part of the protests.