Kejriwal Leaves Meeting in Huff as Farmers Quiz Delhi CM on Support for Article 370 Move

Farmers' leader Gurjant Singh Mansa told 'The Wire' that a politician who had supported the move to read down Article 370 could not fight for more power to states and farmers.

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Jalandhar: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal left a meeting with a farmers’ delegation after he was repeatedly asked to clarify his stance on the Union government’s decision to read down Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kejriwal was on a two-day visit to Punjab during which he visited Mansa and Bathinda districts. Kejriwal’s visits to Punjab have been frequent, with assembly elections barely three months away.

The farmers’ delegation met the Delhi chief minister at Khaila Malikpur village of Mansa district, where he was accompanied by Sangrur MP, AAP Punjab president Bhagwant Mann and others.

It was Kejriwal and the local AAP unit’s decision to hold a meeting with farmers. However, after hearing repeated queries from farmers on his stand on Article 370, Kejriwal called them “political questions” and left in a huff. Before leaving, Kejriwal said, “If you have any question regarding farmers, you can ask me.”

A video of the meeting has gone viral on social media.

In the video, Gurjant Singh Mansa, the district vice-president of the Punjab Kisan Union, is seen asking Kejriwal whether he thinks that the reading down of Article 370 is right or wrong. Hearing this question, Kejriwal asks, “How come this is a farmer’s issue?”

Gurjant then says, “It is an issue of the rights of farmers and the state. Those who make such rules for us are the same people who made these three farm laws.”

‘Political question’

Kejriwal replies that the Union government has snatched all powers of the Delhi government and that he is “fighting with Modi” for Delhi every day. “Why will I be complicit with the Union government in snatching the powers of other states? We have already filed a case in the Supreme Court against the Union government. If you have any questions regarding farmers, you can ask me. As far as political questions are concerned, we are ready to answer them outside,” he says, preparing to leave.

Later in the video, Kejriwal is also seen saying that if he was not in favour of the farmers, then no one else could be. “We have been supporting farmers since the beginning. When farm laws were made, we stood by farmers,” he says.

However, farmers did not appear to be satisfied with Kejriwal’s replies, and repeated the question on Article 370 in J&K till Kejriwal chose to leave.

Also read: AAP’s State Leaders Likely to Oppose Party’s Stand on Kashmir

During the meeting, farmer leaders had a heated exchange of words with Kejriwal over more issues like more powers to states, the farm laws, the Union government’s move to increase the Border Security Force’s (BSF) jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km in Punjab, the long pending issue of Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and others.

In the video, Bhagwant Mann is seen speaking with the farmer union leaders, asking them to avoid such queries.

AAP MP from Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and others during a program, organised to meet the traders and businessmen, in Bathinda, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. Photo: PTI

Shortly after the video went viral on social media, leaders from Kashmir including former cabinet minister in Omar Abdullah government Ruhullah Mehdi and Congress leader Salman Soz also tweeted on it.

Senior Congress leader and Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Dimpa took a dig at Kejriwal for “running away” from the farmers’ meeting, alleging that AAP was the “B-team of BJP.”

“Whether it was the reading down of Article 370 in J&K or the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, Kejriwal was the first one to support BJP on these laws. He has been toeing the line of the BJP and contests elections only to help the saffron party. If BJP has not supported farmers, how can AAP support them? Farmers are aware of their rights and instead of running away, Kejriwal should have answered their queries,” Dimpa said.

Talking to The Wire, Gurjant Singh Mansa, the son of senior Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Ruldu Singh Mansa said, “We had prepared a list of eight to ten questions to be asked to all politicians. As Kejriwal came, we wanted to know his stand on article 370, which was scrapped in J&K. We wanted to know whether he was in favour of Article 370 or against it. When I first asked him this question, he said that he never supported Article 370 but when we told him that we have his videos expressing support to central government, and asked the query again, he stood up and ran away.”

Mansa said he asked this question as, according to them, the Union government was attacking the federal structure of the country and people’s rights were being eroded. “That does not mean that it is a political question. We will oppose AAP on this issue and campaign against it in the elections. A party whose leader supported the reading down of Article 370 cannot be the votary of more rights to states and farmers. Farmers are under attack because of leaders like Kejriwal,” he added.

Mansa said the Punjab Kisan Union has been staging a dharna at Mansa district over the demand of compensation to farmers who faced losses in cotton in the Malwa belt of Punjab, responding to a call by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

Anandpur Sahib and Article 370

Mansa also targeted Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal for invoking the Anandpur Sahib resolution ahead of the assembly elections for the sake of votes.

Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal addresses a press conference. Photo: PTI/File

He said, “Badal invoked this resolution, which talks about commitment to Sikh Panth and greater autonomy to state barring defence, foreign relations, currency and communications, which would remain under Union government. But the fact is that it is all drama. SAD MPs Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal wholeheartedly supported the reading down of Article 370 in the parliament. They are answerable to people and cannot escape.”

Senior journalist at BBC News Punjabi, Pal Singh Nauli, said the reading down of Article 370 and the Anandpur Sahib Resolution are closely related and farmers were justified in raising it.

“J&K enjoyed special status under Article 370, which was similar to Anandpur Sahib Resolution giving greater autonomy to states and restricting the role of the Union government to defence, foreign relations, currency and communication. Today, farmers have become aware of their rights and they want to hold the politicians accountable for their words. The manner in which Kejriwal fled from the meeting shows that he failed to address the queries of farmers,” Nauli said.

Nauli said that the last time SAD raised the demand of Anandpur Sahib resolution was in their election manifesto during 1996 Lok Sabha elections. “The previous SAD-BJP alliance, which ended in 2020 over the three controversial farm laws, is a testimony to the fact that SAD leadership abandoned its core issues. While BJP remained firm on its agenda of Hindutva all these years, SAD dumped its agenda of Anandpur Sahib resolution to remain in power,” he added.