Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday held Union Home Minister Amit Shah responsible for the violence that has left 23 dead in Delhi and demanded his immediate resignation. She said the events since last Sunday had a “history, design and pattern”.
She held the Aam Aadmi Party government and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal “equally responsible” for not reaching out to the people to maintain peace.
The Congress will take out a march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday and submit a memorandum to the President.
Ms. Gandhi was speaking at a press conference at the end of an emergency meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). She was accompanied by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, A.K. Antony, P. Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, K.C. Venugopal, Randeep Surjewala and Shakti Sinh Gohil.
“The tragic events since last Sunday have a history, design and pattern. It was evident even during the Delhi elections. Several BJP leaders made inflammatory statements intended to create an atmosphere of fear and hate,” she said. In particular, she referred to BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s statement on Sunday, setting an ultimatum for the Delhi police to get evacuate the protesters from Shaheen Bagh.
Ms. Gandhi said the violence was the result of the “collective failure” of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Arvind Kejriwal government in the State.
Reading out the CWC resolution, Ms. Gandhi said, “After reviewing the situation, the CWC is of the firm opinion that what has happened in Delhi is a colossal failure of duty for which the entire responsibility must be borne by the Central government, particularly the Home Minister, and calls upon the Home Minister to tender his resignation immediately.” The Chief Minister was equally responsible for administrative inaction. “The Chief Minister must be visible in the affected areas and in constant communication with the people,” she said.
The CWC posed five questions to the Delhi and Union governments. “Where was the Home Minister and what was he doing since last Sunday? Where was the Chief Minister of Delhi and what was he doing since last Sunday?”
Ms. Gandhi also questioned the evident lack of intelligence reports after the conclusion of the Delhi Assembly election. “What was the strength of the police force deployed on the night of Sunday when there were clear indications that violence will break out? Why were additional security forces not called in immediately when it was clear that the situation was beyond the control of the Delhi police?”
She called upon Congress workers and leaders to visit the affected areas, extend help to the families of the affected and help build bridges between communities.
She said the Modi government should have called a meeting of all political parties to brief them of the situation and the action taken by the government. “Whenever there was a crisis of any kind, whether in Kashmir or any other part of the country, the first thing the Vajpayee government would do was to call leaders of all parties. But, unfortunately and sadly, ...ever since Mr. Modi entered office in 2014, as far as I know, no such meeting has ever been called,” she said. Ms. Gandhi also expressed the fear that the violence could spread to other parts of the country.
The Congress planned a march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday, but put it off after the President’s office did not give an appointment. “The President of India communicated to Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad that he is unavailable today and has given us time tomorrow. Upholding the respect for his high office, we have deferred the march, and we shall give a memorandum tomorrow on the grim situation in Delhi and loss of lives,” Mr. Surjewala said.
Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar hit out at Ms. Gandhi and the Congress. Mr. Javadekar accused Ms. Gandhi of “playing dirty politics” over the violence. “In such times, all parties should ensure that peace is maintained, blaming the government instead is dirty politics. Politicising this violence is wrong,” he said.
Mr. Prasad said he condemned Ms. Gandhi’s statement. “Tension in Delhi should end. Many people are spreading violence here. At a time when Delhi is returning to peace, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s remark is untimely. When peace is required, there should be no politics,” he said.