New Delhi: In a momentous day in Indian politics, Arvind Kejriwal, a 45-year-old Magsaysay Award-winning rights activist and vocal anti-corruption campaigner, became the seventh, and youngest, Chief Minister of Delhi state, capping an amazing run that saw him become not just an electoral giant-killer but a major contender in the 2014 general election.
After taking oath at the historic Ramlila Maidan, venue of many an epic political rally in the last six decades but seeing its first ever swearing-in of a government, he said: “It is a historic day, it is not Kejriwal who has taken the oath but the people of Delhi who have taken the oath. It is an effort to give power to the people of Delhi.”
Kejriwal, whose Aam Admi Party (AAP) created history by defeating the Congress within a year of its formation, was sworn-in a business-like ceremony at the ground, teeming with tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters, a large number of them young, senior citizens and women.
Six of AAP lawmakers took oath as ministers. Kejriwal kept to the aam admi, or common man, identification of his party by taking a metro ride from his home in Kaushambi to the Barakhamba station, along with his supporters, enroute to Ramlila Maidan.
After taking the oath, Kejriwal spoke for about 15 minutes, in keeping with the brief ceremony, which began at 12 noon and was over in less than an hour.
Among his first announcements were that red beacons on cars will be used only by essential services, not ministers or officials — a major departure from the past “VIP culture”, while security would be provided only on the basis of “threat perception”.
Kejriwal has repeatedly declined Delhi Police’s offer of security. Pledging to provide a clean government and alternative politics, he however warned of “roadblocks” from entrenched interests. In the face of rising expectations from his government, Kejriwal advised patience and said he had no “magic wand” to solve all problems.
He also said he was not worried about proving his majority in the 70-member assembly, and if he couldn’t, “we will return to the people... People are ready for (fresh) elections”. The AAP has 28 seats, and will be propped up by the Congress (8 seats), which is silent on its future moves.
With his campaign theme being taking corruption head on, Kejriwal made people take a solemn pledge that they would never give or take bribes and promised a phone number they could call up to complain about officials demanding bribes.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telephoned the new chief minister to extend his best wishes and support, while from Maharashtra’s Ralegan-Siddhi, his erstwhile mentor Anna Hazare said he was confident that Kejriwal will do a good job.
Within a few hours of being sworn in, Kejriwal got down to organising the work set-up. Interacting with media at the Secretariat, he said there will be no witch hunting and honest officials had nothing to worry about.
He also urged people to wait until early next week for “news” on the water and electricity fronts. Two of AAP’s key promises were halving the power tariff and 700 litres water daily for all households. Kejriwal’s ambitions are not limited to Delhi, with the party saying it plans to use the capital as a launching pad for its national aspirations. IANS