At INDIA Rally Against Modi’s ‘Autocracy’, 2 Empty Chairs on Dais to Protest CMs’ Arrests

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The INDIA rally at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday.

Participants and leaders at the rally spoke about how a coalition government, and not one-party rule, will strengthen India and its democracy

New Delhi: Nine months after the opposition INDIA alliance started taking shape, its top leaders come together in the capital’s historic Ramlila Maidan on Sunday (March 31) to protest attacks on democracy. The rally drew thousands of people, despite the fact that the Delhi Police gave only conditional permission to the Aam Aadmi Party, the primary organiser of the rally. Delhi Police barred a procession and disallowed any use of tractors and trollers.

Slogans were raised likening Prime Minister Narendra Modi to an autocrat and his regime as autocracy; even in one-on-one conversations, participants at the rally seemed convinced that Modi is an autocrat and the fight is not merely to defeat the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls but a larger fight to save democracy.

Participants and leaders at the rally spoke about how a coalition government, and not one-party rule, will strengthen India and its democracy.

It is the first significant INDIA rally after the Patna show of strength in winter. Several INDIA leaders did come together for a public meeting in Mumbai on March 17, but that was more marking the end of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi. This is the first such gathering after the arrest of two INDIA chief ministers, Hemant Soren and Arvind Kejriwal.

All India leaders were present, barring Kejriwal and Soren for whom two chairs were kept empty on the first row of stage to mark a symbolic protest. The wives of Kejriwal, Soren, Sanjay Singh and Satyendra Jain were also present. Sunita Kejriwal read out a message from Kejriwal which said that he will “keep dreaming about an India which can provide education and health care for all irrespective of whether they are rich or poor”.

Leaders who attended included Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Akhilesh Yadav, Farooq Abdullah, Tejashwi Yadav, D. Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Uddhav Thackeray, Derek O’Brien, Mehbooba Mufti, Tiruchi Siva, Dipankar Bhattacharya and Thol Thirumavalan.

Enough time has lapsed since revelations in the multi-crore electoral bond scam, giving the Opposition ammunition against the BJP which cornered Rs 8,261 crore. Constituents of INDIA have been demanding a Supreme Court-monitored SIT to investigate the details.

Tax notices worth crores on the eve of elections have also galvanised the Opposition and given them a common rallying point.

Ramlila Maidan has a special place in the history of building Opposition to ‘powerful’ executives. The rally just after the first Emergency was lifted, in the run-up to the polls contested against Indira Gandhi in 1977 are seen as a signature moment in the history of this ground. Jayprakash Narayan was at the helm of the Opposition then. The ground, usually earmarked for Ramlila festivities, is now much smaller with less space available for crowds to rally, and several levels of permissions required before gatherings are allowed to take place.

All photos by Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta.

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Disclaimer: At INDIA Rally Against Modi's 'Autocracy', 2 Empty Chairs on Dais to Protest CMs' Arrests - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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