A supporter of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) holds a broom, the party symbol, as he celebrates with others outside the party office in New Delhi yesterday.
New Delhi: Giant-killer Arvind Kejriwal, who defeated three-time Chief Minister and Congress stalwart Sheila Dikshit in the New Delhi constituency, is nothing short of a political sensation, and his personal victory can be compared to the maverick Raj Narain’s electoral win over prime minister Indira Gandhi in the historic 1977 general election.
The bespectacled Kejriwal, 45, an IIT engineer by training and a revenue officer by profession, was not only able to effectively present his one-year-old political party as an alternative to the two big national parties who have ruled the national capital in the past but, with a modest and affable personality that identified very much with the common man, fired the imagination of the youth and the marginalised who came out in large numbers to vote for his party.
A Magsaysay award winner, Kejriwal came into the limelight as one of the main spokesmen and a close lieutenant of anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare during his highly publicised movement in 2011. He later parted ways with his mentor to start a political outfit — much against Hazare’s wishes who wanted to keep his movement non-political — in November last year.
Dismissed by the BJP and the Congress as political upstarts who would not be able to match their popularity or influence, the unheralded AAP was able to catch popular imagination by offering transparency in governance and people-friendly policies to the city residents hit hard by price rise, corruption and insensitive bureaucracy. Kejriwal created a sizeable fan following in the slums and working class areas of Delhi while also attracting youths and the middle class by protesting agains power hikes last year.
The youth and sections of the middle class saw him as a “hero” who had “unmasked” corrupt politicians and sported their AAP emblazoned white side caps (akin to the Gandhi cap) with aplomb. “His credibility peaked when he fasted for the Jan Lokpal bill (against corruption),” close friend Pankaj Gupta said. Eager to sound neutral before he plunged into politics, Kejriwal spared no one. He levelled charges against Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and then Law Minister Salman Khurshid of illegal land deals and fund embezzlement. He also targeted then BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, accusing him of grabbing farmers’ land and corruption in collusion with the Nationalist Congress Party’s tainted Ajit Pawar. Kejriwal’s wife Sunita is an Indian Revenue Service officer. They have two children.