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Delhi’s shopkeepers have downed their shutters on Tuesday to protest the sealing drive by the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee. According to the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) leader Praveen Khandelwal, the Delhi trade bandh is successful. He said more than 700,000 shops affiliated to over 2,500 trade associations are shut across Delhi today. “We estimate a loss of business of Rs 18 billion and revenue loss to the government of Rs 2.5 billion,” Khandelwal said. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called an all-party meeting to discuss the issue, which took place in the afternoon. While the Congress attended, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) boycotted the meeting. “The BJP is not serious about saving the traders of Delhi from sealing,” said Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s social media strategist Ankit Lal. The AAP and Congress have demanded an ordinance from the Centre to bring relief to the traders of Delhi. With the Narendra Modi government at the Centre unable to push through an ordinance in the face of the Supreme Court instructions, the BJP in Delhi finds itself in a spot. In a letter to Kejriwal, the Delhi BJP said, it would have been better if the Delhi Chief Minister met the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee and registered his protest for carrying out a sealing drive without any notice.
It said the all-party meeting was meaningless. Meanwhile, the AAP leadership has busied itself in scoring some political points by pointing out that Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari is touring abroad when the shopkeepers in Delhi are suffering. Tiwari, a Lok Sabha member, is part of President Ram Nath Kovind’s entourage on his visit to Mauritius. The sealing drive was undertaken by the municipal corporations of the national capital on the directions of a Supreme Court-appointed committee in December last year. Under the drive, hundreds of commercial establishments have been sealed so far for non-payment of conversion charges and violation of the Delhi Master Plan. Politically, with the AAP successful in blaming the BJP-led government at the Centre for its failure to bring relief to the city shopkeepers, the BJP could suffer in the forthcoming assembly polls to 20-seats. The election schedule is likely to be announced in the coming week. The seats had fallen vacant after 20 AAP legislators were disqualified for holding offices of profit.