Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hit back at the BJP today after being labelled a "terrorist" in an outrageous verbal assault by Lok Sabha MP Parvesh Verma at a Delhi election rally in West Delhi last week. Addressing reporters at a brief but emotional press conference, Mr Kejriwal asked of Delhi's voters: "How have I become a terrorist? I've arranged for medicines... did so much for the needy. I've never thought of myself or my family... am ready to give my life for the nation".
"I am a diabetes patient. I take insulin four times a day. Doctors said no to my joining politics... they said I would not live," the Chief Minister said, also recounting his history of anti-corruption activism.
"If I wanted to... I could have gone abroad... so many of my friends and colleagues did. I gave up my job... does a terrorist do all this?' Mr Kejriwal, who graduated from the prestigious IIT-Kharagpur, asked, adding, "I leave this up to Delhi to decide... am I their son, their brother or a terrorist".
Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has written to Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer - who has yet to forward the complaint to the Election Commission - and demanded that an FIR (first information report) be registered against Mr Verma, who is already under investigation by the Election Commission for claiming Shaheen Bagh's anti-citizenship law protesters "will rape your sisters, daughters".
The shocking statement by the BJP leader is believed to have been made on January 25 while campaigning for Kailash Santhla in Madipur constituency.
In a video of the incident Mr Verma can be seen warning voters "if Kejriwal returns, Shaheen-Bagh type of people will take over streets" and that this "has happened in Kashmir with Kashmiri Pandits"; a reference to the Pandits' mass exodus from Kashmir after a spate of terrorist attacks in the 1990s.
"I have worked hard for five years, day and night, for Delhi. I gave up everything for the people of Delhi. After entering politics I faced many challenges so that I can help people improve their lives... and, in return, the BJP is calling me a terrorist. I am very sad," Mr Kejriwal tweeted yesterday.
"We hear instances of Hindu women picked up by Muslim men... no action is taken as terrorists like Kejriwal are hidden everywhere," Mr Verma continues, asking voters, "Should we fight with Pakistan terrorists in Kashmir or with terrorists like Kejriwal?"
Speaking to news agency ANI after the speech Mr Verma defended his comments, claiming Arvind Kejriwal "lies as a habit" and that the AAP leader was fooling the people of Delhi.
This is the second time, in a week, Parvesh Verma has made such distasteful comments.
Addressing an election rally in Vikaspuri in North Delhi, he declared protesters who had mounted a peaceful sit-in protest at 's Shaheen Bagh will be cleared in an hour if the BJP were to come to power and "within a month, we will not spare a single mosque built on government land".
On Wednesday the Election Commission directed the BJP to remove Mr Verma and Union Minister Anurag Thakur from its "star campaigners" lists. The poll body gave both leaders till 12 pm today to respond to its show-cause notices.
Being removed from a "star campaigners" list does not mean Mr Thakur and Mr Verma cannot campaign for the BJP. It only means expenditure incurred will be added to the candidate's expenditure, which is capped at 28 lakhs.
The BJP has stepped up its attack on Arvind Kejriwal ahead of next month's Assembly elections, with sources saying the party has decided to lean in to widespread criticism of its citizenship law and target the ruling AAP over the Shaheen Bagh protests.
Sources said the party could isolate the AAP and cut down the Congress with a "Shaheen Bagh blitz".
Delhi votes to fill its 70-member Assembly on February 8, with results due three days later. The AAP swept 67 seats in 2015 polls (leaving three for the BJP) and hopes for a similarly commanding performance this time around.
With input from PTI, ANI