INDIA Bloc 'Loktantra Bachao' rally a show of opposition unity

In a show of opposition unity ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, INDIA bloc leaders came together at the 'Loktantra Bachao' rally at the Ramlila ground in Delhi on Sunday here to protest against various issues, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest.

INDIA Bloc 'Loktantra Bachao' rally a show of opposition unity

In a show of opposition unity ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, INDIA bloc leaders came together at the 'Loktantra Bachao' rally at the Ramlila ground in Delhi on Sunday here to protest against various issues, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest.

Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21 in a money laundering case linked to the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy. He is in ED custody till April 1.

Several opposition leaders at the rally asserted that it is being organised to save the Constitution and democracy. This was the first public meeting of the INDIA bloc leaders since the Lok Sabha poll schedule was announced by the Election Commission. 

A hallmark of the rally was the maiden speech by Sunita Kejriwal, who read out her husband's message from Enforcement Directorate custody and said tyranny won't work and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cannot be kept behind bars for long.

Sunita also asked people whether Kejriwal should resign as Chief Minister. "The BJP is demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Kejriwal. Should he resign? Is his arrest justified? He is a 'sher' (lion). They won't be able to keep him behind bars for long," she said and thanked people for showering blessings on her husband. "This tyranny will not work. My husband is getting lots of blessings," she said.

The BJP, meanwhile, slammed the Ramlila Maidan rally, saying it is not a save democracy rally as projected but ‘a save family’ and ‘hide corruption rally’. Briefing media at the party headquarters in New Delhi, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said, these parties represent the crisis of credibility in Indian politics while the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi symbolises the politics of credibility and the track record of delivering on its promises. 

Taking a swipe at Opposition parties, he said while the parties claim to have come together to save democracy but they are themselves dynastic organisations which never allowed others to rise.

Trivedi said people will give them a befitting reply in the polls. In an apparent reference to the coming together of the Aam Aadmi Party with other Opposition parties, he said that people who trashed many leaders as thieves and crooks have joined hands with them and it is a strange and startling sight.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav, NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) leader Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, NC's Farooq Abdullah and Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren were among those present.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge described the RSS-BJP combine as "poison" that has "destroyed" the country, and called on all opposition parties to unite to defeat the ruling party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

This election is to save democracy, the country and the Constitution, he said at the rally, which seeks to highlight the "threat to democracy" after the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren.

"We need to unite and only then will we be able to fight the BJP. We won't succeed if we keep attacking and fighting each other," Kharge said. "This election is for saving democracy and the Constitution and we must fight unitedly," he said.

Training his guns at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kharge said, "There is no level-playing field in this election. PM Modi has dug up the ground and is asking the opposition to play cricket there." He said he told BJP chief J P Nadda at a recent meeting that this election is "not fair" as the Congress' funds have already been "stolen".

"The BJP and the RSS are like poison, don't taste it. They have destroyed the country and they should not be allowed to destroy it further," the Congress chief added.

Kharge said the country cannot prosper until Modi and his ideology are removed. He also accused the prime minister of misusing institutions to threaten opposition parties and its leaders, and toppling their governments to form BJP governments.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to do "match-fixing" in the Lok Sabha polls and asserted that if the BJP succeeds in its endeavours, the country's Constitution will be changed and people's rights taken away.

Addressing the rally, the former Congress chief said this is not an ordinary election but one to save the country's democracy and Constitution. "When pressure is put on umpires and captain, players are bought off and the match is won, in cricket, it is called match-fixing. We have Lok Sabha polls before us. Who selected the umpires? Before the match started, two players were arrested... Narendra Modi is trying to do match-fixing in these polls," Gandhi said.

The BJP is raising the slogan of getting 400 seats, but without EVMs, match-fixing, pressure on opposition leaders and buying media, they will not be able to cross even 180 seats, he claimed. Gandhi said the Congress is the biggest opposition party and all its accounts have been frozen.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra read out the demands of the opposition alliance at the rally. She said the Election Commission should ensure a level playing field for all parties in the Lok Sabha elections.

The poll panel should stop the Enforcement Directorate, CBI and the Income Tax department's actions against opposition parties being taken to adversely impact the elections, the Congress leader demanded, adding that former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal be immediately released.

During the elections, action to forcefully scuttle the finances of opposition parties should be immediately stopped, she said, reading out the INDIA bloc's demands at the rally. The opposition alliance also demanded that a Supreme Court-monitored SIT be set up to probe the BJP's "extortion" of funds through the electoral bonds scheme.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said the BJP is being "criticised" across the world for the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and accused the ruling party at the Centre over peddling lies.

In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav claimed that his guarantee is like Chinese goods and is only meant for polls, as he urged people not to fall for the BJP's "propaganda" in the Lok Sabha polls. He alleged that an "undeclared emergency" was prevailing in the country and asserted that the opposition will not let the RSS agenda succeed.