While refusing to answer questions posed to him by Congress leader Digvijay Singh till his party replied to all the corruption charges laid at their door, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejriwal challenged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for a public debate on issues troubling people.
On the basis of televised comments of Mr. Digvijay Singh, Mr. Kejriwal accused the Congress and the BJP of being hand-in-glove on matters relating to corruption.
Mr. Singh had reportedly said there was evidence of corruption against relatives of the former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and the former Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani, but the Congress would never use them to embarrass the two.
Mr. Kejriwal said these observations confirmed his group’s suspicions that both parties have an understanding with each other. “I congratulate Singh for confessing this. He has evidence of corruption ….and BJP has evidence against Robert Vadra and Singh... But both have an understanding,” he said.
“We had put some questions to Vadra and the Prime Minister. Let them answer them first. Then we will answer all questions from Digvijay Singh. I request Singh to encourage Mrs Gandhi, Prime Minister or Rahul Gandhi to come for a public debate. Let’s question each other and let the public question us on personal and public issues. If Digvijay Singh cannot convince his party bosses or the PM, then people would think he is doing all this for cheap publicity and to divert attention,’’ he said at a press conference where he assailed the government for roughing up IAC activists as they marched towards Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda’s bungalow.
But initial reactions from Congress leaders indicated that Mr. Kejriwal’s wish is unlikely to be honoured soon. Union Minister Harish Rawat discounted any possibility of Dr. Singh squaring up to Mr. Kejriwal for a debate and accused him of being interested only in “politics of allegations.’’
On the consolation prize offer in the form of Mr. Digvijay Singh for a debate, Mr. Kejriwal said if that would be the case, then IAC could field Kumar Vishwas from their side.
Sunday began on a tense note in the heart of Delhi when the police used water cannons to disperse IAC activists after they breached a barricade. Mr. Kejriwal and other prominent members of the IAC were not among those detained, and separately IAC activists claimed the core of the demonstrators was from their ‘Haryana unit.’
Mr. Kejriwal paraded a few protesters who, he said, were set upon by the police during their march and had come from a hospital after being treated for injuries.
“This is the way government is reacting to a peaceful protest, which is a constitutional right. How can a government treat its people like this?” he said while alleging a nexus between the Haryana government, realty major DLF and Mr. Vadra over questionable land deals, a charge they have refuted.