Kejriwal meets Modi, seeks full statehood for Delhi


NEW DELHI:  Two days before he takes oath as Delhi’s chief minister, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and raised the issue of granting full statehood to the capital.

Kejriwal, who is reaching out to the Modi-led central government after weeks of a bitter election campaign, also invited the Prime Minister to his oath-taking ceremony but the latter said he had some prior engagements.

Kejriwal and his close associate Manish Sisodia, who is likely to be the deputy chief minister, were with Modi for some 20 minutes.

Full statehood to Delhi was one of the promises made by the Aam Aadmi Party in the run-up to the assembly polls.

Modi, who during the campaign had called Kejriwal a “Naxalite” who should be banished to the forest, received the AAP leader warmly.

“We discussed issues concerning Delhi over chai pe charcha. One of the issues was granting Delhi full statehood,” Sisodia later told the media.

He said Modi promised to ponder over the issue and assured the AAP leaders the Centre’s full cooperation to the Delhi government.

After Kejriwal led his party to a landslide win in the Delhi election that left the BJP with just three of the 70 assembly seats, Modi congratulated the AAP leader and invited him for a meeting over tea.

That day too, he told Kejriwal that the central government would extend full cooperation to the Delhi government.

Kejriwal and Sisodia have been meeting Union ministers whose ministries have a say in the affairs of Delhi. The duo on Wednesday had discussed the same issues with Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Naidu’s ministry controls the Delhi Development Authority and large areas of land in the capital. The home ministry controls Delhi police.

Thursday’s Modi-Kejriwal meeting — their first — is expected to break the ice in their relations.

The AAP leader took on Modi at Varanasi during the Lok Sabha election and lost badly.

On February 10, the AAP turned the tables on the BJP, delivering Modi’s party its first defeat since its Lok Sabha triumph.

Like in December 2013, Kejriwal will take oath as Chief Minister at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan in the heart of Delhi.

An estimated 100,000 people attended that event in 2013, when the AAP created sensation by winning 28 seats in its maiden election. It formed a government with Congress help that lasted just 49 days.

Now that the AAP has won a staggering 67 of the 70 seats, both the party and the police are expecting a much larger crowd.