Almost every newspaper headline on March 6 said the same thing: “Kejriwal’s detention sparks AAP-BJP clashes”. The media, including TV channels, focused on three things: the detention of Arvind Kejriwal and attack on his car in Gujarat; AAP workers’ protests outside the BJP offices in Delhi and elsewhere leading to violent clashes.
In Delhi 13 AAP activists and 10 BJP supporters were injured. Jhansi, Kanpur and Allahabad also witnessed a similar backlash. This was the day when the Election Commission announced the Lok Sabha poll schedule. It is an ominous beginning. Violence in any form by anyone is unacceptable.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Gujarat visit would not have attracted the media attention that it did had the Gujarat police not detained his cavalcade. There were protests against his visit to Narendra Modi’s home state and his car was attacked.
Why was no police protection provided to the former Chief Minister of Delhi? Yet the detention and the attack gave AAP workers no right to resort to protests, that too violent, without prior permission of the authorities when the code of conduct had come into force. The police in Delhi, Lucknow and elsewhere waited for clashes to happen before taking action.
Why were the workers allowed to gather outside the centrally located BJP office in Delhi? Finally, since the clashes involved workers of both parties, why did the police single out AAP workers for registering cases of rioting and damage to public property against them? Obviously, the police in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have a lot to answer.
In the war of words that followed Wednesday’s developments BJP spokespersons were all full of sound and fury, while Arvind Kejriwal, a cool-headed master media strategist, apologized and asked his party workers to maintain calm. Narendra Modi, who is still the Chief Minister of Gujarat, has preferred to keep quiet. Perhaps, he does not want to involve himself in a slanging match with a challenger he calls too small to matter.