Shakur basti: Denied rally permission, Kejriwal spars with police

Aam Aadmi Party's Delhi convenor Gopal Rai at a road show in West Delhi on Saturday. (Express photo: Gajendra Yadav)

A controversy broke out Saturday after Delhi Police denied permission to a public meeting slated to be addressed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal - his first in a series of 70 proposed rallies till April 30.

Delhi Police'a permission cell rejected the AAP application as the venue at Shakur Basti was "very congested". However, police also claimed to have offered a no-objection certificate for an alternative site, 150 metres away from the spot chosen by AAP.

"Is it possible that Delhi Police cannot make arrangements for 2,000 people? Police comes under the BJP and they got it cancelled as they know they are losing all seven seats. They will make more attempts to get our rallies, road shows cancelled, misusing the police," Kejriwal later said, at a rally in Timarpur.

Responding to the CM's allegation, DCP (outer Delhi) tweeted: "Busy intersection of Sant Nagar Chowk was not found fit for a proposed public meeting of 2,000, with around 1,000 seats and pandal, due to heavy traffic and weekly market. This was conveyed on March 20. No objection for alternate site, 150 metres away, has already been conveyed."

The AAP, in a statement, claimed the police offer for an alternative site was a "face saver", which came only after the CM raised the issue through a tweet.

When contacted, DCP (outer) Seju P Kuruvilla said: "AAP's proposed venue was near the chauraha of the main market in Ranibagh, where barely 300 people can stand. They wanted to lay 1,000 chairs and needed space for 2,000 people. We guided them to the alternative site on March 20 itself. They applied for that space yesterday, but there are guidelines for applying and there has to be a notice period of at least 48 hours."

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh slammed the police, claiming that Union Minister Harsh Vardhan had addressed a rally at the same spot on March 4. He also said the AAP will raise the matter with the Election Commission.

Kejriwal also lodged his protest on Twitter: "How many BJP rallies were denied permission by police in Delhi in last 5 years? BJP, concede that you have lost all the seven seats in Delhi. Modi ji reneged on his promise to grant full statehood to Delhi. Now people will speak."