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Government’s Republic Day headache: how to shift Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

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New Delhi – Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s refusal to back down on his protest in the heart of the city has raised questions about Republic Day celebrations on Sunday, for which the entire central Delhi area needs to be sanitised.

Mr Kejriwal, his ministers and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters are sitting on a dharna outside Rail Bhawan near Rajpath, the ceremonial avenue where the Republic Day parade is held every year.

With an elected Chief Minister taking to the streets, the government is facing a new challenge. He can’t be removed by force.

Army sources have said there is “no question” of dealing with the protest; security of the area is the Delhi Police’s responsibility.

On Friday, 72 hours before the parade, the area will be taken over by the army till the January 29 Beating Retreat function. During this time, access is mostly restricted and all offices are vacated.

Not far from the protest site, military tanks and tableaux have lined up in preparation of the parade. Indian Air Force helicopters were seen practicing for the fly-past today.

The government is playing the game of nerves with the AAP for now. Sources have told NDTV that there are no plans to use force.

“The responsibility of the Republic Day isn’t just of the government but also the Chief Minister who took oath on the constitution,” said Union Minister Manish Tewari.

The Chief Minister today refused to negotiate with the Delhi Police or even shift to another site, Jantar Mantar, vowing to flood the streets with protesters on Republic Day. (LIVE updates)

He says he will continue the protest until Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde suspends three police officers for not following AAP ministers’ orders.

A petition in the Supreme Court against Mr Kejriwal’s protest has offered a way out. The government hopes that the protest will be stayed by the court, and the Chief Minister will be forced to move to a different site.

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