After a meeting with Aam Aadmi Party MLAs on November 6, AAP convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal met his councillors in the assembly on the 7th. The meeting lasted about one and a half hours. Kejriwal did not speak to the media afterwards. But AAP MLA and MCD incharge Durgesh Pathak told reporters, “Yesterday (on Monday), there was a meeting of the MLAs. All MLAs had unanimously told the chief minister not to resign; we will run the government from the jail. Today (on Tuesday), all AAP councillors had a meeting with the chief minister. The meeting was long, lasting about one and a half hours. All councillors unanimously requested the chief minister that you will not even think of resigning. If Modji musters the courage to arrest you, then you have to run the government from Tihar jail. You have to defeat his purpose.”
The young legislator of AAP argued that the Modi government was conspiring to somehow jail Arvind Kejriwal. “And, once he is behind bars, he will resign and after that, they will destroy AAP. They want to break AAP as they have tried it earlier. This is their conspiracy. They have been making this plan for the past one and a half years, first to arrest Satyendar Jain, then Manish (Sisodia) ji, then Sanjay Singh ji, and finally arrest the CM. They have conspired to put leaders in jail and then destroy AAP.”
In perhaps what could be interpreted as a message to the councillors, Pathak reiterated, “Modi ji has built a fabricated case under which he is arresting all AAP leaders one by one. A few days earlier, he sent a notice to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. You must have seen during Manish ji’s bail hearing, the manner in which the judge sahab repeatedly asked where is the proof, where is the money trail. The judge went to the extent of saying that the case would be demolished in the trial court within two minutes. It is true that the court did not grant bail. We respect the Supreme Court and the judge sahab.”
Pathak alleged that the plot to arrest the chief minister has been hatched as the BJP knows that it cannot beat AAP. “Modi ji knows that he cannot defeat AAP electorally. In Delhi, we defeated him in 2013, 2015, 2020, and in the 2022 MCD elections. He lost elections in Punjab,” he said. Therefore, alleged Pathak, they have conspired to jail AAP leaders.
The Delhi MLA, who is also a PAC member, said that a decision has been taken to conduct a referendum on whether the chief minister should continue to hold office or resign in case he is arrested. “In Delhi, we will conduct a referendum by reaching out to each household in each street. We will hold a dialogue with the people and take their opinion—’Should the Delhi chief minister resign or run the government from Tihar?’ These dialogues will take place across Delhi and the country. There will be referendums across the country on the same question of whether Kejriwal should resign or run the government from jail.”
It may be recalled that AAP convener Kejriwal in the past has often chosen the referendum route for taking difficult decisions. When the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign was at a crossroads on whether to continue as a movement or morph into a political party, Kejriwal sought the people’s opinion. Similarly, when AAP won 28 seats in 2013 and fell short of the eight more needed to form the government, again Kejriwal relied on the opinion of the public, and ‘referendums’ were conducted in every assembly constituency of Delhi. Again, recently when AAP had to declare a chief ministerial face for Punjab, it sought public opinion.
For AAP, a ‘referendum’ is a political tool to galvanise public opinion, more often used to make an unconventional decision palatable to the citizens.