Promising the passage of the “almost ready” Jan Lokpal Bill next month at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan “in the midst of people”, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday asserted his right to hold agitations and accused some media houses of portraying the Aam Aadmi Party in a negative way.
Speaking on the eve of Republic Day at the Chhatrasal Stadium here, Kejriwal said the intention behind the Jan Lokpal Bill was not to send people to prison but to check corruption and instill a sense of fear.
Defending his agitation in the heart of Delhi some days back, Kejriwal, who had called himself an “anarchist” on the first day of the sit-in, said the constitution did not prevent a chief minister from protesting.
However, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley slammed the AAP government, saying it had not carried out its responsibilities according to the constitution during its protest in the capital.
Kejriwal, in his speech, said the Jan Lokpal Bill was almost ready.
“In the month of February, we will have a special assembly session at the Ramlila Maidan and in the midst of people, the bill will be passed,” he said as the crowd, which had a large number of schoolchildren, erupted in thunderous applause.
“We don’t want people to go to jail, we want them to mend their ways,” he said, adding that corruption in Delhi has gone down by “at least 20 to 30 percent” since the party came to power.
Kejriwal said he had come to this conclusion on the basis of “feedback from the people”.
Stressing that safety and security of women was an important issue for his government, he said a committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Srivastava for the protection and security of women.
The panel, comprising of retired army personnel and home guards, will ensure protection and security of women, he said, adding that provisions will be made to ensure that rapists are sent to jail within 3-6 months.
Defending his protest, Kejriwal said it was for the first time that a chief minister had protested for women’s safety.
“But by imposing section 144 (prohibiting assembly of five or more people) the central government proved that it was not serious about the issue. The government said my protest was against the constitution but there is no provision which says that a chief minister cannot sit on a dharna,” he said.
Kejriwal said that if needed, he would agitate again.
Jaitley said in an article on his website that there was a difference between sitting on a fast at Rajghat (memorial of Mahatma Gandhi) and giving a call to policemen to abandon their duty and obstructing the Republic Day parade.
“I am sure Arvind Kejriwal realises this,” he said.
Kejriwal also expressed his intent of saving the country from corruption and said some media houses were “intentionally trying to create hurdles” by portraying the AAP negatively. He did not name the media houses.
“We are trying to save the country from corruption and if the media projects the AAP in a negative light, who will save the country?” he asked.
Reiterating his stand on giving power to the masses, the chief minister said ‘mohalla sabhas’ (neighbourhood assemblies) would be set up across Delhi so that people can “govern themselves”.
“If the people keep on approaching us for every little problem, it will be difficult for us to govern effectively. Therefore, we want people to govern themselves. We want to transfer power to them,” Kejriwal said.
“We will divide Delhi into clusters and elections will be held in these mohallas, headed by a chairman. We will give them funds and they will meet every week and decide how to spend it on water, electricity, cleanliness, roads, parks etc. In the next 15 days, a draft of this law will be finalised,” he added.
Kejriwal also handed over a cheque of Rs.1 crore to the family of a constable who died in an attack by liquor mafia men in December.