Sounding more mature and pragmatic in his second innings, AAP leader and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday vowed to make Delhi the country’s first corruption-free city and end “VIP culture” even as he warned party colleagues against “arrogance” after the AAP’s thumping victory. Addressing an estimated 100,000 cheering supporters at the Ramlila Maidan – he had made a special appeal over radio to people to come – after being sworn in, Kejriwal also sought statehood for Delhi, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi had too many issues to take care of and that Delhi must be left to Delhiites.
And in comments that drew a positive response, the Aam Aadmi Party leader — sporting his party’s white cap with the words “Main hoon aam aadmi” (I am a common man) — reached out to his vanquished rivals, Kiran Bedi of the BJP and Ajay Maken of the Congress, saying he would consult both on how to develop Delhi. He described Kiran Bedi as his “elder sister”. “After our (earlier) 49 days in office, we have the confidence that we will finish off corruption in Delhi,” the 46-year-old said to loud cheers. “We have to make Delhi the first corruption-free city in India. We can do it.”
And repeating the lines from his Ramlila Maidan speech of 2013, Kejriwal urged people to covertly record on their mobile phones demands for bribes by officials and send the recording to him. “We will take the strictest action,” he said, triggering another roar of approval. Kejriwal said a Helpline number he had announced in his first stint would be restarted — for people to complain about corruption. His government would also pass the Jan Lokpal bill.
The huge gathering packing the sprawling ground in the heart of the capital went wild as he took the oath of office and secrecy from Lt Governor Najeeb Jung — followed by six ministers — and then addressed them in Hindi. The six included his long-time confidant Manish Sisodia, who will be the deputy chief minister, Satyendra Jain, Sandeep Kumar, Gopal Rai, Asim Ahmad Khan and Jitendra Singh Tomar. Sisodia and Jain were in the earlier Kejriwal government too.
Speaking from his heart, Kejriwal admitted that the AAP’s decision to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election — he himself took on Modi in Varanasi and lost — was a blunder. He urged his ministers, legislators and AAP colleagues never to show arrogance, saying this is what which destroyed the Congress and the BJP. “If arrogance creeps in, we will not be able to fulfil our mission.” The AAP swept an incredible 67 of the 70 seats, leaving just three to the BJP. “I know people of Delhi love us. But I didn’t know they love us so much.” Calling the result a “miracle”, he said God was trying to convey a message. “We have to understand the message.”
Like last time, Kejriwal announced a ban on what he called VIP culture, including red beacon lights on official vehicles and strutting around in public places with a phalanx of security. He said Indians wanted a society where political leaders would also travel in buses like in many countries in Europe.
The income tax official-turned-activist-turned-chief minister, who has been suffering from fever for some days, sounded unwell. He told the crowd that he had come to the venue after taking Crocin. The AAP leader decried statements attributed to AAP leaders that after the Delhi victory, the party would expand in other states. This, he said, also smacked of arrogance. “God has ordered us, the people of Delhi have ordered us to serve them… All the coming five years I will serve only the people of Delhi.”
He said he told Prime Minister Modi that the AAP stood for “constructive cooperation” with the central government, and it was high time the capital Delhi was granted full statehood. “As prime minister, he is very busy. He has to think about the country, he has to go abroad… Please leave Delhi to the people of Delhi… I am confident Modi will think about this positively.” He said that although Delhi Police didn’t come under his control, he was confident his government would make Delhi a secure city for people of all religions and communities.
Referring to the Hindu-Muslim riots in east Delhi and the recent attacks on churches and Christian institutions, Kejriwal said Delhi had never seen troubles of this sort for 35 years. “People of Delhi want peace. They won’t tolerate this… We want to live in peace.” He ended his 30-minute address, by singing a song on brotherhood and communal amity, which he asked the crowd to sing with him, demonstrating yet again how this unusual, and in some ways maverick, politician stood out from the rest. (IANS)