NEW DELHI — The Congress Party demanded the registration of an FIR against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal holding them "most responsible" for the suicide of a farmer at the latter's rally in Delhi on Wednesday.
"A case abetment of suicide should be lodged against the central government and the state government... The two persons who can be held most responsible for the suicide are Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Kejriwal," party spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi said at the AICC briefing here.
His remarks drew a volley of questions from mediapersons who sought to know the justification of his demand and asked whether former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar can also be held accountable for suicide of farmers in the country when they were at the helm of affairs.
"The suicide happened in presence of the Chief Minister and (personnel of) Delhi Police, which is under the control of the central government... The Prime Minister did nothing to prevent it. Then who else is responsible for it?" he asked.
To repeated questions as to how can the Prime Minister be held responsible for the suicide and how logical it is to demand registration of FIR against him, the Congress leader argued that he is responsible for "creating a situation that led the farmer to commit suicide. Who else (is) responsible for it? He should be held responsible legally as well."
"The Prime Minister is particularly responsible for this incident as the situation that has led to it is continuing for months. The Prime Minister did not take the steps, which he should have taken. Investigation must take place, FIR must be filed against him. Nobody is above the law," Chaturvedi said.
Castigating Kejriwal and his team, he said, "The conduct of Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and AAP was shameful.
A person hangs himself to death and you are engaged in delivering speeches, doing politics. How can somebody be so insensitive?"
Chaturvedi also attacked Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu alleging that his language in Lok Sabha while replying to the issue of farmers raised by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was "unparliamentary". He said the conduct of the Parliamentary Affairs Minister and his party colleagues was an example of conduct followed by "Duryodhan".
Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Dausa in Rajasthan and father of three, today committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in full public view in the presence of Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal at an Aam Aadmi Party rally at Jantar Mantar, a stone's throw away from Parliament.
Late in the evening, Congress Communication Department in-charge Randeep Surjewala told PTI that the Prime Minister must own "moral and constitutional responsibility" for the farmer's suicide, in an apparent departure from its earlier demand of an FIR against Modi.
"An FIR should be lodged against the (Delhi) Chief Minister and officers of Delhi Police present on the spot for abetment of suicide as they did not prevent the farmer from taking the extreme step," Surjewala said.
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee President Sachin Pilot, who represents Dausa in Parliament, will attend the funeral of Singh tomorrow.
"This is a most tragic incident that a farmer has committed suicide in the heart of the capital. If this does not shake up people in responsible positions, then nothing else can shake them up.
"The incident speaks of the brutal reality of our agrarian sector. The farming community should not be losing hope otherwise it will have disastrous consequences for the country, which this incident forewarns," Pilot said.
Pilot, a former Union Minister, said, "My heart goes out to family members of Singh."
Under fire over the land acquisition bill in Parliament and outside, BJP slammed Kejriwal for continuing with his speech at the rally even as the tragedy unfolded at Jantar Mantar, a stone's throw from Parliament House.
"I want to ask all those leaders of AAP, what is more important? A life is important or politics is more important? A life is more important or your career is more important? Your wish to become something is more important or your wish to save the man who is dying is more important?
"This is a conspiracy, Sir. You knew what was happening but still decided to do your politics. You knew very well that when poor Gajendra Singh jumped from the tree he had committed suicide. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, sir, you knew very well that he had died. Still you did not decide to keep quiet. You still tried to score those political brownie points," BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay also demanded that an FIR be registered against the organisers of the rally.
"It is a case of murder and the entire matter be investigated," he demanded.
The Aam Aadmi Party, however, cried "sabotage" and accused the police of being "mute spectators" to the tragedy and blamed the Delhi police, which functions under the Centre, for it.
Facing criticism over the incident that took place in full public view in the presence of a battery of its top leaders, Kejriwal said, "We kept asking the police to bring him down.
Police may not be in our control but at least there should be a semblance of humanity among them. I am rushing to the hospital with Manish Sisodia."
Senior AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh and Ashutosh later held a press conference where they blamed the Delhi police for doing nothing to save the farmer's life even after being told to do so.
"A case of abetment of suicide should be lodged against the central government and the state government....the two persons who can be held most responsible for the suicide are Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and Chief Minister (Arvind) Kejriwal," said Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, however, was a little guarded when he said he did not wish to make any statements in "this hour of grief" but assured the farmers that his party would stand strongly behind them and will not allow anyone to take away their land. He also asked Youth Congress workers to help transport the farmer's body to his hometown.
Describing the incident as "sad", CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was a sign of how deep the agrarian crisis in the country was and how unhappy the farmers were, and advised the government to think about it.
Gandhi said as he had stated earlier that farmers are being punished by the Modi government which is helping the corporates and this is causing pain and damage to farmers.