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The reach of the message from Ramlila Maidan


The massive rally by the opposition INDIA Alliance at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan on Sunday was organised as a protest against the arrests of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. But more than that, it was also a show of unity and strength of the INDIA bloc. As a front of 40 small and big parties, both national and local, there are a few irritants and local discords between some parties in the alliance, but being able to make a show of strength in the capital with such force served as a big message. It was a unanimous protest against the misuse of central investigative agencies like ED, CBI, and IT and thus hunting down opposition parties and leaders. Moreover, it is clear that the Centre has crossed all limits and opened a new path of oppressing the opposition. This has created a context where Kejriwal in jail has emerged stronger than a free Kejriwal to sway events. It is also noteworthy that even international voices have been raised in the background of the government being accused of pursuing a repressive policy and denying the opposition the opportunity to contest elections on a level playing field.

Also read: ED can keep Kejriwal under custody till April 15, says 'not cooperative'

Ramlila Maidan, which has witnessed many historical events before and after independence, and the venue of the latest show of strength of the opposition, is also the place where the anti-corruption struggle by Anna Hazare against the UPA government at the Centre took place in 2011. And Kejriwal gained national attention from its front line. Today a rally for Kejriwal who is in jail has been held with the active participation of UPA leaders. This happened now in a more threatening manner than in 2011, in the background of the fear that the secular and democratic principles that form the cornerstones of the nation of India may disappear. The BJP's model of politics of enriching itself through election bonds and financial muscle power of crony capitalism, buying up the opposition leaders and repressive measures of the central investigative agencies continue unchecked. In this situation, the opposition may have realized that there is no other way to survive than to unite. The motivation for the current move is to set aside all the differences of the interim period.

Also read: Sunita Kejriwal reads husband Arvind’s message at INDIA bloc rally

When Kejriwal stormed into Delhi politics and came to power in 2013 and again in 2015, the party that got decimated in the state was the Congress. And it may be a bit ironic that it is the same Congress that is today in solidarity with AAP in the India Alliance. It may be recalled that Kejriwal's opposition to the divisive politics promoted by the BJP, coupled with its minority bashing, was not that robust. Not only that, there is also criticism that the positions taken by Kejriwal and AAP could at best be called soft Hindutva. However, the voice of anti-BJP mobilization reflected in Sunday's massive demonstration and the speeches of leaders including Rahul Gandhi has breathed a new life into the opposition. On Monday, the Delhi court again accepted the ED's plea to extend Kejriwal's remand for another 15 days by which the Centre may be able to ensure his absence from the election campaigns. AAP had the weakness of not having a second tier of leadership after Kejriwal. His close associates, Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh, have already been in jail since last year. Their repeated bail pleas were rejected too. And it is Atishi Singh, a member of the political affairs committee of the AAP, who serves as the face of the party in public. Amidst these limitations, the redeeming fact for the party is that AAP's struggle is no more its alone but that of the entire opposition.

Also read: UN prods India to be free and fair for voting, saying Kejriwal's arrest is concerning

The first pre-requisite the INDIA Bloc needs to meet to take on the BJP is to maintain its unity and moral strength of unity together with displaying a sensible, flexible, and realistic approach to seat sharing. The possibility of ending the era of the BJP hinges on its ability to convince the people how much the BJP has made people's lives difficult, how much corruption BJP has led on the shoulders of crony capitalism at the same time using anti-corruption rhetoric, and the extent of threat it has created against the unity of the country's communities and the damage it can cause to the constitution that guarantees diversity and democracy.

Also read: US firm on its comment on Kejriwal’s arrest, says closely watching

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TAGS:Arvind KejriwalEditorialRamlila MaidanINDIA Bloc
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