Delhi, scholars will tell you, was built and rebuilt seven times in history. Modern-day New Delhi, built by the Britishers, is considered to be the eighth city. As it turns out, 84 years to the day after Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy, formally inaugurated it on 10 February 1931, New Delhi underwent a tectonic transformation [...]

Sunday Times 2

Kejriwal 2.0: Delhi’s political tremor shakes Modi

A high-voltage election delivers a stunning result. Ramesh Ramachandran and Anurag Tripathi decode the meaning of the Delhi verdict

Delhi, scholars will tell you, was built and rebuilt seven times in history. Modern-day New Delhi, built by the Britishers, is considered to be the eighth city. As it turns out, 84 years to the day after Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy, formally inaugurated it on 10 February 1931,
New Delhi underwent a tectonic transformation when a rank outsider by the name of Arvind Kejriwal and his fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won an unprecedented 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly and garnered more than 54 percent of the votes polled. The last time a political party won more than 50 percent of the vote share in Delhi was in 1977 when the Janata Party scored an emphatic victory over the Congress.

Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (C) addresses his supporters in New Delhi on Tuesday. Reuters

What makes AAP’s victory even remarkable is that the BJP’s tally was reduced to a mere three seats; its vote share dropped by over 14 percent as compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha election in Delhi to 32.7 percent, which, incidentally, is only marginally lower than the 34 percent the party had bagged in the 2013 Assembly election when it won 32 seats in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). That is not all; the Congress had the ignominy of failing to even as much as open its account in Delhi, thus putting a question mark over its future as a political force of consequence on the Indian political firmament.

Not much has been heard of Lali Prasad, a 39-year-old autorickshaw driver in Delhi, since he slapped Kejriwal during a roadshow in Sultanpuri, northwest Delhi, on 8 April 2014. Nor has Delhi heard again of a 20-year-old Abdul Wahid of Batla House in Jamia Nagar, who punched Kejriwal at a rally on 4 April last year. What provoked Abdul is a moot point; his father claims he could have been lured by easy money. However, Prasad’s was an emotional outburst against Kejriwal’s decision to quit his newly installed government within 49 days. “I felt betrayed… we had worked hard to bring AAP to power,” he apologetically told Kejriwal a few days later when the latter called on him at his house in Kirari.

By the end of polling on 7 February, a chastened, born-again Kejriwal, who did not forget to remind anyone who would care to listen that he is sorry for having abandoned them and that he would not commit the mistake again, had successfully managed to regain the trust of a demographic represented by the likes of a Lali Prasad and an Abdul Wahid. As the results would indicate, Kejriwal not only registered a comprehensive win by securing the support of the economically weaker sections and the minorities but also succeeded in influencing those among the middle classes who might have voted for Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha election but who have had second thoughts about allowing someone like him, with a bespoke Rs 10 lakh pin-striped suit with his full name etched on the fabric and a Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti of the Ram-zaadon vs Haraamzaadon infamy for company, a free run, as it were, of the city-state, causing considerable anguish to the aspirational Delhiite buffeted by economic and societal crises.

The paradox was unmistakable. Modi, who flaunted his humble origins as a tea-seller only eight months ago to coast to an unprecedented victory in the Lok Sabha election, transposed into the consummate insider against the proverbial underdog in Kejriwal, who revelled in looking the part of an aam aadmi (common man) with a muffler et al. Compounding Modi’s woes were the avoidable targeting of minorities, be it the Trilokpuri riots or the multiple attacks on churches and the ‘Ghar Wapasi’ (anti-conversion) episode. Consequently, the minorities voted en masse for AAP instead of risking to waste their votes on the Congress. Even Modi’s campaign promise of “Jahan jhuggi, wahaan makaan” (wherever there is a slum, there will be a house) by 2022 did not cut ice with the intended beneficiaries, who, if the straws in the wind are to be believed, feared that either their slums would be razed or the land on which their slums now stand would be provided to builders for in situ development.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, an aide to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, cautions the BJP that it needs to stick to the straight and narrow of coming good on its promise of development and good governance, and not be distracted by certain eminently avoidable tendencies. “The stupendous victory of AAP in Delhi is a triumph of Indian democracy. It is a sobering lesson to all political parties, especially for the ruling party at the Centre, that India’s voters cannot be taken for granted. Delhi’s verdict is also a reminder to the Modi government that the decisive national mandate it got in May 2014 was for the promise of development and good governance, and not for Hindutva. The BJP can ignore this at its own peril,” Kulkarni tells Tehelka.


Anti-corruption anarchist turned top politician

NEW DELHI, (AFP) – Arvind Kejriwal, who trounced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party at New Delhi’s state election, is a former tax inspector with a record of campaigning against graft in India’s notoriously dirty politics.

The 46-year-old quit his comfortable and highly sought-after government job in 2001 and embarked on a career as an anti-corruption campaigner that lead him to national fame.

He was catapulted into the Delhi chief minister’s post after his anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party made a stunning breakthrough at the capital’s last election in late 2013.

But he resigned 49 days later after a chaotic spell in charge, leaving the city without a government for a year and sparking accusations that he was fleeing the tough job of administration.

During the campaign this time around, Kejriwal apologised for abandoning the city and went on to become the star of the show, winning over legions of working-class voters willing to give him a second chance

“We have to serve people of Delhi and develop it into a city so that both rich and poor will feel proud of it,” Kejriwal said on Tuesday outside AAP’s headquarters, as hundreds of supporters showered him with petals.

“I appeal to the AAP workers and leaders not to bearrogant” because of the massive victory, said Kejriwal, who is known as Muffler Man for often wearing scarves around his head at rallies.

The victory caps a remarkable comeback for Kejriwal, whose party flopped at national elections last May when Modi stormed to power also pledging to clean up government.

During his last brief tenure as chief minister, Kejriwal initially won rave headlines with his no-nonsense approach to endemic corruption and for shunning the VIP culture of Indian politics, including by riding the metro to his inauguration.

But the radical tone of some of his announcements were widely criticised, and his administration was soon embroiled in a series of stand-offs with authorities.

The self-styled “anarchist” staged a sit-in on the pavement close to the national parliament, triggering chaos in the city centre, as part of a push to be given greater powers of control over the police.

This time around, Kejriwal pledged to stay in power for the long haul and see through policies for the “common man” including lower utility bills and free wifi.

“He’s put everything on the line for people like you and me and everyone else here. He’s a common man hero,” said 36-year-old accountant Poulomi Gupta as she celebrated his win on Tuesday.

After initially starting an NGO to help voters avail themselves of public services, Kejriwal switched his attention to promoting a Right to Information law, which was finally passed in 2005.

His work on the legislation, a success story in opening up the government and a tool now used by campaigners to expose corruption and collusion, earned him “Asia’s Nobel”, the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

In 2010 he began working on ways to pressure the government into passing a law to create an independent ombudsman capable of investigating complaints against public servants.

Together with elderly activist Anna Hazare, he launched a nationwide campaign that tapped into deep-seated anger about graft amid a succession of scandals involving the previous national government and culminated in hunger strikes by Hazare in front of huge crowds in Delhi in 2011.

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