The Election Commission has been forced to warn Arvind Kejriwal of “stern action” after the Aam Aadmi Party leader ignored its earlier directive to be more circumspect in his public utterances. Kejriwal has reportedly been exhorting voters in his election speeches for the Delhi assembly election to take bribes if offered by the BJP and Congress but to vote for his party.
The EC’s latest warning to the AAP chief on Tuesday coincided with the BJP and the Congress demanding that Kejriwal's nomination be cancelled.
"Today we came to the EC to complain against Kejriwal for misleading the people of Delhi,” Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay told journalists, “by accusing parties of bribing voters. We have demanded cancellation of his candidature and banning him from giving any speech.”
The former Delhi chief minister had been issued notice by the EC last Friday for making his bribe remarks during rallies, stating it amounts to “abetting and promoting electoral offence of bribery”.
However, Kejriwal defied the EC’s directive when he repeated his comments on Monday at rallies in the Jangpura and Kasturba Nagar constituencies, according to The Hindu.
“Do the BJP and Congress come to you with money? If they do, don’t say no to them. Take the money. I know they are distributing blankets and sacks of rice as well. Take all of that, but reject liquor as it destroys families,” Kejriwal told people as the crowd cheered him on.
Meanwhile, Kiran Walia of the Congress asked the EC to remove Kejriwal’s name from the electoral rolls and bar him from contesting the election. She claimed he was “cheating” the people by declaring a false address in the nomination papers, as his address in BK Dutt Colony was actually an AAP office.
Campaigning has heated up in recent weeks, with a three-way contest between the BJP, AAP and Congress. According to a recent poll, support is growing for the AAP despite Kejriwal sudden resignation as chief minister in January 2013 after just 49 days in power, a move that cost him the support of Delhi’s middle class and which he later publicly apologised for.
The BJP meanwhile is a formidable opponent, riding high on public support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party has inducted former policewoman and anti-corruption activist Kiran Bedi as its candidate for chief minister, the first time in the past year that it has announced its candidate for a top post in advance.
Bedi’s non-political background and her participation in the 2011 anti-corruption crusade of Anna Hazare – a career chart similar to Kejriwal’s own – makes her a strong contender. She is expected to blunt Kejriwal’s appeal to voters, with even Shanti Bhushan, a founding member of AAP, calling her nomination a “masterstroke”.
With the political stakes so high, one can expect more personal attacks and offensive remarks between the three parties in the lead up to voting on February 7.