New Delhi: Shortly before Rahul Gandhi's arrival at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial Rajghat in Delhi for a protest fast, two controversial Congress leaders, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, were reportedly asked to leave the stage and sit with workers.
- Jagdish Tytler is accused of leading mobs during 1984 anti-Sikh riots
- "I wasn't asked to leave. I always sit with workers," Mr Tytler said
- Ajay Maken said, "We have specific criteria for people on the stage"
Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are both accused of leading mobs during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in the aftermath of then prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. Jagdish Tytler was given a clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation on three occasions. But a court had asked the agency to investigate the matter further.
"I wasn't asked to leave. I always sit with workers," Jagdish Tytler told reporters, emphatically denying being ordered off the dais where Rahul Gandhi was to sit.
"Who says the party won't accept me?" said Mr Tytler, a former union minister, asserting that the charges against him were not proved.
Ajay Maken, the Delhi Congress chief who shared the stage with the Congress president, said the seating was based on "specific criteria" - no former MPs.
"The protest is for all Congress workers. We have specific criteria for people on the stage," Mr Maken told NDTV.
Congress sources said the fast was organized to "promote communal harmony" and the presence of the two leaders on the stage with Rahul Gandhi was seen to be completely wrong to the optics and messaging that the party is aiming at.
Congress units across the country observed the fast, said party leaders.
Last week, the Congress announced the protest soon after the ruling BJP said its parliamentarians would observe a fast on April 12, and blamed the opposition party and its leader Sonia Gandhi for blocking parliament.
The Congress has accused the government of getting its allies and others to disrupt parliament proceedings so that no-confidence motions moved by Andhra Pradesh parties would not come up at all.
The Congress has also been targeting the government over the Dalit protests. A week ago, Dalit groups called a "Bharat Bandh" against a Supreme Court order that they thought weakened a law meant for their protection against atrocities.