The Centre on Wednesday defended its decision to deny permission to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to attend a climate summit in Denmark, saying it is meant for "mayor-level" participants, but an angry AAP termed it a "very lame excuse" and an insult to the people of Delhi.
Kejriwal was to leave on Tuesday for the C-40 Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, but could not do so. The Ministry of External Affairs examined the request and "clearance from a political angle" has been declined, Delhi government sources said.
But Union minister Prakash Javadekar said it was a "mayor-level conference" and a West Bengal minister is going to attend it.
Central government sources later said a separate protocol is followed for chief ministers and rejected suggestions that opposition parties were being targeted.
The Ministry of External Affairs said Kejriwal was advised not to attend the World Mayors' Summit as his visit there as a speaker at a panel discussion does not commensurate with the level of participation from other countries.
In response to media queries regarding political clearance for Kejriwal, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "A considered decision on political clearance by the Ministry of External Affairs is based on multiple inputs and takes into account the nature of the event, the level of participation by other countries, type of invitation extended, etc."
However, senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh said his party will raise the issue in assembly elections due early next year. His party colleague Raghav Chadha said Javadekar's comment on Kejriwal is "incorrect, ill-informed and misleading".
"Election is coming and the AAP will take this issue of not granting us permission to present our good work to the world to the people of Delhi. We will expose the ill-motive and mindset of the BJP," Singh, the Delhi Vidhan Sabha election in-charge of AAP, said.
The Rajya Sabha MP also said Sheila Dikshit had participated in the climate summit as chief minister of Delhi. "It is a very lame excuse," he said on the protocol issue.
Meanwhile, the BJP took a swipe at Kejriwal, saying the country has been "saved from embarrassment by the cancellation of the visit".
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said in a statement, "The people of Delhi want to know whether he (Kejriwal) is a chief minister or the mayor."
"(The) chief minister himself tried to replace the mayor of Delhi for this visit," he said.
Kejriwal was to lead an eight-member delegation to the summit, to be held from October 9-12. At the summit, he was to speak on AAP government's experience in lowering pollution level in Delhi and other related issues.
Tiwari said Kejriwal has not contributed to controlling pollution in Delhi.
"He is only misleading the people of Delhi by claiming to control pollution with the help of false advertisements," he said.
But AAP's Singh asked, "Why the BJP is scared of the work done by the Kejriwal government. In the last few years, the Delhi government has done a remarkable job by improving the quality of education and health but the Centre does not want us to tell the world about these achievements."
"This way the BJP is not allowing the Delhi government to hold the flag of India high in front of the world," he added.
Singh said similar incidents happened with Delhi's Education Minister Manish Sisodia and Health Minister Satyendar Jain when they both were denied permission to go abroad to talk about the achievements of the Delhi government.
"This is not the first time the Centre has done this, earlier the same thing happened with deputy chief minister and Delhi Education Minister Sisodia and Health Minister Jain," he said.
Sisodia wanted to travel to Russia to participate in a conference and Jain wanted to travel to Australia but both were denied permission, Singh said.