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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Kejriwal says Varanasi protests not unexpected

PTI  Varanasi, April 18, 2014
First Published: 16:31 IST(18/4/2014) | Last Updated: 19:22 IST(18/4/2014)

With Arvind Kejriwal facing wrath of protesters time and again, local police in Varanasi has decided to further increase its security arrangements for his poll campaign and is keeping a close watch on a 24-hour basis.

The Aam Aadmi Party chief was again interrupted by protesters raising pro-Modi slogans when he went out for a 'morning walk' meeting at Company Bagh in Varanasi on Friday.

A large group of protesters shouted 'Har Har Modi' and other slogans in support of BJP prime ministerial candidate and called the former Delhi chief minister a 'bhagoda' who has come here after fleeing from Delhi.

Kejriwal, however, wrote these protesters off calling them "young boys who are on the wrong path" and said there has to be a scope for non-agreement.

Read: Kejriwal faces protest by Modi supporters in Varanasi

He said that such protests were not unexpected as he was challenging "biggest vested interests in the country" and offered to sit with the protesting "boys" to discuss their complaints against him.

Senior AAP leader Anand Kumar also downplayed the protest, saying this was a small group of people and no large-scale opposition was there for the party.

Kejriwal and other AAP leaders also undertook a march today to reach out to the people, for which police made increased security provisions, although a crowd of people shouting slogans against him also moved along with them.

The former Delhi chief minister urged his supporters to maintain peace and not to indulge in any violence.

Kejriwal is in the fray against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat, which will go to poll on May 12 in the last phase of elections.

Last night the AAP leader got stuck in a huge crowd of angry protesters shouting pro-Modi slogans and he could be whisked away only after police used mild force to disperse the mob.

The local police has asked AAP to share detailed schedule of their campaigns so that necessary security arrangements can be made at every place he visits at any time, a senior officer said, adding that Kejriwal has been often moving away from his declared itinerary and moving around without the knowledge of police personnel accompanying him for security.

Besides police personnel, local intelligence unit officers are also keeping a close watch on every movement of Kejriwal, although he has been able to dodge them quite a few times, admitted one of the personnel in his security cordon.

Senior police officers, on condition of anonymity, said that the blame for last night's incident also goes partly to Kejriwal himself, as he refused to leave the location when the crowd of protesters began to swell up.

Kejriwal, who has been subject to protests and assaults on many occasions earlier too including in Delhi, told his supporters and the local police last night that he would not leave the spot of protest and instead offered to give flowers to the protesters.

Till late hours last night, senior police officers discussed the situation among themselves and also with the AAP functionaries, who said that they would not escape from such protesters as they were coming across such people on a regular basis.

While AAP leaders alleged involvement of BJP workers in the incident, the saffron party distanced itself from the incident. AAP leaders claimed that this shows frustration in the BJP ranks over Kejriwal's growing popularity.

In a counter attack, local BJP leaders said it was AAP and Kejriwal which was fond of controversies.

The incident took place last night when Kejriwal stopped at a famous pan shop near Benaras Hindu University area after returning from campaigning in nearby villages.

As Kejriwal was chatting with people near the pan shop, crowd gathered there and started shouting pro-Modi slogans, Kejriwal's rival and BJP prime ministerial candidate.

The protesters turned aggressive but no harm was caused to Kejriwal, as police reached the spot soon and intervened to disperse the crowd, police said, adding Kejriwal was whisked away by the police from the scene.

According to police, there was around 500 to 600 people in the crowd but there was no lathicharge. However, some locals claimed that there was lathicharge by the police.

Police later filed complaints against "unidentified" people for the incident, while a few protesters were also questioned.

Later in the night, city SP Rahul Raj came to the place where Kejriwal has been staying to enquire about the incident.

He also asked AAP functionaries to ensure that they inform police about movements of Kejriwal to avoid repeat of such incidents.

Full coverage: My India My Vote


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