Tug-of-war between BJP and AAP over Delhi’s iconic Signature Bridge
Minutes before the official inauguration of the much-delayed Signature Bridge on Sunday, a spat over credit for the project played out in open as Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari got into a scuffle with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers and Delhi Police.
Accompanied by supporters, Tiwari, who had not been invited for the inauguration ceremony, reached the venue at 3.30pm and tried to enter the bridge from the Bhajanpura side. Tiwari, the MP from North East Delhi constituency where the bridge is located, alleged he was stopped by the police.
Tiwari and his supporters, however, managed to make their way to the venue where they were again stopped by Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel as the MP tried to get close to the main stage. As a result, scuffles broke out between BJP workers, police personnel posted there and groups of AAP supporters.
BJP alleged that AAP workers and police misbehaved with Tiwari. “AAP workers were there already as I walked towards the stage. A group of (AAP) workers came and started pushing me in the presence of police,” Tiwari said.
For the past few days, the Delhi BJP chief had been criticising the Kejriwal government for not inviting him to the inauguration ceremony.
“I am the MP of the area. In fact, the work for the bridge was stuck for a decade and I intervened so that it would speed up. This is how you treat me for showing you in a good light? I expected nothing in return, just some respect that you would give to an MP and a fellow human being,” Tiwari said.
Watch: Delhi BJP chief, AAP workers clash during Signature Bridge’s inauguration
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal slammed the BJP for “chaos” at the inauguration ceremony and sought Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal’s intervention in the issue. “Unprecedented. Chaos by BJP at Signature Bridge inauguration site. Its a Del govt prog. Police mute spectator. Can LG, being head of Del police, ensure peace and order at Signature bridge inauguration site [sic]?” the CM tweeted minutes after reports of the scuffles emerged.
The CM later said on Twitter that the Delhi Police “virtually handed over” the security for the entire programme in the “hands of hooligans.” He added that the government would “explore legal options.”
BJP workers waved black flags near the stage as the CM spoke at the inauguration.
In his speech addressing the 2,500 people at the event, Sisodia admitted that the Delhi government deliberately decided not to invite Tiwari. He said the BJP had started “politics of inauguration” in the city.
“It is your party (BJP) that started politics of inauguration. We deliberately skipped (inviting) you… because your government did not invite an elected chief minister for inauguration of skywalk (at ITO last month) which was constructed by the state government,” Sisodia said.
Sisodia was referring to a controversy that was kicked off last month when the Union housing and urban affairs ministry did not invite Kejriwal, or other Delhi cabinet ministers, for the inauguration of the city’s first skywalk at ITO in central Delhi. The AAP had then accused the Centre of trying to “hijack the work of an elected government”.
BJP alleged that AAP workers and the police “misbehaved” with Tiwari who was also allegedly “pushed off” from stairs near the stage by AAP MLA from Okhla, Amanatullah Khan.
“He (Khan) has a history of hooliganism. He has beaten up the chief secretary of Delhi. The AAP is a party of goons. They do not care for development or for people of Delhi,” Tiwari said.
Watch: Identified goons who heckled me, says Manoj Tiwari
Countering the BJP leader’s claims, the AAP blamed Tiwari of indulging in “hooliganism” by “thrashing” party workers. The party said Tiwari had come to the event with the intention of disrupting the launch of the landmark bridge.
“Thousands of people had come to celebrate without an invitation card. But the MP (Tiwari) considers himself VIP. That is why he indulged in hooliganism. They (BJP workers) had come to disrupt the event,” said Dilip Pandey, senior AAP leader and party in-charge for North East Delhi constituency.
In one of several videos circulating on social media, Tiwari is seen scuffling with the police and people the BJP MP alleged were AAP workers. In another video, Tiwari is seen being pushed by a man that he claimed was Amanatullah Khan.
The authenticity of the videos, however, could not be independently verified by HT.
Later, a video shared online by a news agency showed Tiwari threatening that he would “deal” with policemen who had stopped him.
Joint commissioner Ravindra Yadav said the Delhi Police did not allow the situation to turn ugly. “Though there were slogan shouting but police segregated the groups and prevented any clashes,” he said. Yadav said basic cause of dispute was that the BJP leader wanted to get on the stage, whereas the organisers did not want him to do that. “Rumours that a police official was slapped at the event are false. It was jostling and pushing which happens during crowd control situations,” added Yadav.
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