Fears for safety of India's election candidates as anti-corruption campaigner attacked again

 

Delhi

An anti-corruption campaigner targeting the frontrunner in India’s election campaign said he feared he might be killed after he was attacked for the second time in five days.

Arvind Kejriwal, who heads a grass-roots party highlighting corruption in the country, was assaulted by a man while campaigning in north west Delhi. Five days ago he was similarly attacked by a 19-year-old student. He has also had ink thrown over him several times while on the campaign trail.

Local television channels broadcast footage of a man reaching out to Mr Kejriwal with a garland of flowers, drooping them over his lowered head and then slapping him in the left side of the head with an open palm.

The 38-year-old man, a rickshaw driver, was dragged away by party supporters and himself beaten. As he was later taken away by police, he claimed Mr Kejriwal had broken promises that he had made to voters.

Yet in the aftermath of the attack, Mr Kejriwal appeared to suggest the attacks were directed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) whose candidate, Narendra Modi, is considered the frontrunner as India embarks on a month of voting to elect a new government.

“I do not understand why some people resort to violence for becoming the Prime Minister. If you think by attacking us, we will keep quite then you are wrong. We will fight this battle till the last breath,” Mr Kejriwal told the media after composing himself by meditating at the spot where Mohandas Gandhi was cremated in 1948. “In the coming days, I fear more attacks on me. I might also be killed.”

Voting for India’s election, believed by a many analysts to be the most significant in more than three decades, finally got underway this week. The first of nine days of voting saw people cast their ballots in two north-eastern states and more there will vote on Wednesday. An even greater number of voters, in 92 constituencies, will vote in the third phase on Thursday. Among them will be voters in Delhi.

The election campaign has become increasingly toxic with rival candidates hurling abuse and accusations. Mr Kejriwal, who heads the Common Man Party (AAP), has been jostled, insulted and now punched twice.

In line with his efforts to reach out to the poor and lower middle class – the sort of people who saw his party stun the nation by securing power in Delhi in a local election last year - he has tried to minimise his security detail.

Unlike many politicians, who appear to enjoy the supposed status that goes with large convoys of vehicles with flashing lights and protection teams, Mr Kejriwal has opted for as little as possible. He also insists on walking around neighbourhoods and talking to voters.

Many of Mr Kejriwal’s supporters believe he is particularly vulnerable because he has repeatedly condemned powerful corporate and industrial interests. He has also announced he will personally contest the election in Varanasi, the sacred city on the Ganges from where Narendra Modi will also run.

Ajay Gudavarthy, a political scientist at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said various factors might be involved in the attack on Mr Kejriwal, including disgruntlement among elements of the police and other politicians who realise the AAP leader has opted not to have a large security retinue.

“One doesn’t know who is behind all this. There is also the fact that there is general public discontent,” he said. “It’s an easy way to vent one’s anger by attacking a senior political figure.”

India knows better than to take such issues lightly. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by assassins from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam while campaigning ahead of elections in May 1991. His mother, Indira Gandhi, was also assassinated, by her two Sikh bodyguards seeking revenge for an India army operation on the sacred Golden Temple

When Mr Gandhi was killed close to the southern city of Chennai, the killer, Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, bent to touch his feet in a supposed sign of respect before detonating a suicide-bomb belt. The attack was carried out because of India’s controversial peacekeeping role during Sri Lanka’s civil war, something that took place when Mr Gandhi was prime minister.

Last year, the BJP demanded the central government provide additional security for Mr Modi after small explosive devices went off at a rally he was addressing in Patna in Bihar.

Professor Katharine Adeney, a South Asia specialist at Nottingham University, said such attacks appeared to be increasing in recent years.

She said: "The coordination and frequency of these attacks does appear to be more unusual; Kejriwal has alleged that there is a conspiracy behind them. Obviously Kejriwal has upset some vested interests with his anti-corruption message," she said. "However these types of attacks are not likely to hurt his standing in the polls - they increase the perception of him as an outsider and a martyr."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions