Anti-graft crusader stuns India with huge election win

December 09, 2013 - 6:14:36 am

From LEFT: Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), addresses supporters from his office in New Delhi, while BJP’s Delhi chief ministerial candidate, Harsh Vardhan, waves to his supporters after winning from his constituency in New Delhi.
NEW DELHI: Some of the biggest celebrations of state election results in Delhi yesterday were not for the winners, but for a brand-new anti-graft party that stormed India’s establishment to win a close second place.

Hundreds of activists wearing boat-shaped “Gandhi hats” bearing the slogan, “I am a common man”, gathered at the party’s modest headquarters, cheering and waving brooms in the air to symbolise a clean-out of rotten politicians. The upstart Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party is led by mild-mannered former civil servant Arvind Kejriwal who has vowed to end the stranglehold of India’s two largest parties in the capital and beyond, and clean up politics in the process.

Kejriwal defeated the three-time chief minister of Delhi in her own constituency and his party came close to winning control of the city. The challenge for him now is to grow his movement in time for national elections due by May — a task that could pit him against leading opposition candidate Narendra Modi.

“I’m fully confident that finally the country will win, people will win, democracy will come, and India will win,” Kejriwal said, addressing supporters after bringing to an end Dikshit’s 15-year run in the city. The metropolis of Delhi is a city-state with a burgeoning population of about 16 million. 

The remarkable rise of the bespectacled Kejriwal from the ashes of a street protest movement two years ago has shaken  national parties which, only days before yesterday’s results, had dismissed the buzz around the new party as hype. 

It is uncertain how much the Aam Aadmi Party can grow in time for the general election, especially since one internal survey ahead of the Delhi election found that about a third of the party’s supporters wanted to see Modi as prime minister. The state results in Delhi, along with three other state elections whose results were counted yesterday, were a resounding rejection of the Congress party, which has ruled India at a national level for two consecutive terms. Reuters

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