Coalgate: Kejriwal at forefront of IAC's protest in Delhi

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Arvind Kejriwal
New Delhi, Aug 26: Members of India Against Corruption (IAC) tried to gherao the residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi and BJP president Nitin Gadkari here today, condemning the huge loss caused to the exchequer by the allocation of coal blocks to private companies.

IAC members Arvind Kejriwal and Gopal Rai were first arrested early in the morning from Race Course Road. The duo was taken to the Mandir Marg police station. Meanwhile, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas were taken into custody from Janpath.

However, the police could not execute their plan to detain the activists at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Bawana. With IAC supporters preventing the move, the police were forced to release Kejriwal and the others around 8.10 a.m.

The IAC members immediately proceeded to Jantar Mantar. Kejriwal slammed the Delhi Police for using excessive force against his associates. "They have beaten Sisodia, he is badly injured. What was our fault? Some of the IAC members may have to be hospitalised," he rued.

"They said I am being detained because I am a threat to peace. Am I a threat or the BJP, the Congress are a threat to the peace of the country? Their intolerance and arrogance is coming out. The Congress and the BJP hold so many protests. They are never stopped," Kejriwal said.

Referring to Raj Thackeray's recent rally in Mumbai that was attended by thousands, Kejriwal pointed out that then the MNS chief was given police permission and now the IAC's "peaceful protest" is being stopped by the police.

At Jantar Mantar, Kejriwal was joined by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. In their speeches, the trio hit out at the ruling party as well as the opposition. Kejriwal stressed that both the Congress and the BJP should not be elected to power.

"All of them are hand in gloves when it comes to corruption. There were irregularities in coal block allocation in the BJP ruled states also. We cannot blame only Congress. Coal mines were allotted to companies that make underwear, gutka and cassettes. The Chief Ministers allocated coal mines to their favourite companies," he said.

"Why is it that whenever the Congress comes to power, there is no action against corruption committed by the BJP? Is it not true that the Congress and the BJP are hand-in-gloves to not let Parliament function?" Kejriwal asked. He further demanded to know why electricity costs increased even after coal was sold very cheaply to power companies.

Challenging the government's assertion that the CAG's concept of national loss in coal block allocation was flawed, Bhushan said: "You are allocating natural resources to private companies on much less than actual price. You cannot claim zero loss just because one company does not sell the coal to other companies."

Describing Coalgate as "dacoity", Yadav cited former Coal secretary Parekh's advice to the government that the coal allocation policy would lead to huge losses. The PM who held the Coal portfolio from 2006 to 2009 did not heed the warning, Yadav noted.

At 1.20 p.m, some IAC members including Kejriwal tried to go towards the PM's residence but they were briefly taken into custody. Subsequently more activists coverged at the spot. Police used water cannons to keep them at bay.

Around the same time, a large number of activists gathered near the BJP president's residence on Tughlaq Road. Police fired tear gas shells at the protesters before resorting to a lathicharge. Similar scenes were witnessed outside Sonia Gandhi's residence, 10 Janpath, too.

Though the IAC members were again taken into preventive custody, Kejriwal was released at 3.10 p.m.

Incidentally, IAC members staged simultaneous protests against the chief ministers of Madhaya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha at Bhopal, Raipur and Bhubaneshwar respectively.

OneIndia News

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