Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal defended himself on Monday over his hug with Lalu Prasad at Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in ceremony, saying the RJD chief “pulled and hugged him” and that it did not mean they had formed an alliance.
Kejriwal, whose political career took off after a national crusade against corruption, was widely criticised after he was seen hugging Prasad, who has been convicted for his role in an animal fodder racket in Bihar. After images of the hug went viral, Twitter users circulated a 2013 tweet by Kejriwal which had taken a dig at the sentence Prasad received after his conviction.
On Monday, Kejriwal told the Aam Aadmi Party he was opposed to Prasad’s dynasty politics and he couldn’t help when the RJD leader hugged him. “At Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in, Lalu Prasad was on the stage. He shook hands, pulled me towards him and hugged me. And held my hand and raised it,” Kejriwal told an AAP National Council meet.
“This was projected and questions were asked. We have not formed an alliance (with RJD),” Kejriwal, who has vowed to make Delhi corruption-free within five years, said.
“We are against his record of corruption, and we’ll always oppose it,” he added.
The Delhi CM faced criticism from various quarters for hugging Prasad at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan at the oath- taking ceremony on November 20. Expelled AAP leader Yogendra Yadav described it as a “shameful” act.
Yadav said it was not mere hugging, but the defeat of ideals to form a bloc against the BJP. “Political capital of the movement sold to symbols of political corruption. Ashamed!”
Reacting to the criticism over the hug, Kejriwal said: “I am happy that questions are being asked. Questions are being asked because people have hope, because they think we are different. Nobody asks questions when other leader hug Lalu ji, it’s good for us.”
“We are against his dynasty politics. His two sons are ministers. We are against that too,” he added.
A court sentenced Prasad to five years in jail in 2013 for siphoning off state funds. Prasad was convicted for his part in a 1990s animal fodder racket in Bihar in which crores of rupees went missing. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court later that year.
Kejriwal, who has had a long feud with the Narendra Modi-led central government, had come out in support of Kumar ahead of the staggered Bihar elections. He later said the impressive win by the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and its allies Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress had shattered the “arrogance” and “self-pride” of Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
At the meet, Kejriwal again defended his decision to back Kumar. “I went to Bihar. Nitish is a good person. People have told us that Nitish has done good work. We worked against the BJP there and supported him.”
With inputs from agencies