India anti-graft crusader to be Delhi chief minister

December 23, 2013 - 12:36:32 pm

NEW DELHI: India's anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal announced Monday he would head up a state government for New Delhi in a stunning breakthrough for his fledgling party just months before a general election.

The former tax official is set to become chief minister in a minority administration after his Aam Aadmi party won the second highest number of seats in the state assembly earlier this month.

The Congress party, which is in power at national level and ran New Delhi for years before being trounced in the state elections, said it would provide support for a Kejriwal-led government but would not join it.

"I will request the lieutenant governor to allow us to take the oath of office," Kejriwal told supporters who danced in celebration and waved brooms, the party's symbol for a clean sweep of India's graft-ridden politics.

Although the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the most seats in the assembly, it has been unable to strike a deal with Kejriwal or Congress in the fortnight since the results were announced.

Aam Aadmi won 28 of the 70 seats in the assembly, trouncing Congress whose share slumped to eight. 

The BJP, which is expected to come out on top in a general elections due in May, won 32 seats.

Kejriwal has been wary of accepting support from either Congress or the BJP, given that many voters cited the two parties' record on corruption as their reason for siding with Aam Aadmi.

But an Aam Aadmi official said that 74 percent of supporters who took part in an internal poll had endorsed the idea of it forming a government.

Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who oversaw Congress' defeat in the polls, said her party would give "outside support" to the administration.

BJP spokeswoman Pinky Anand, reacting to Kejriwal's decision to form a government, told the NDTV news network: "Good for them. I hope the people of Delhi are not disappointed."

Kejriwal only started the party a year ago but he has indicated that he wants to field candidates across the country in the general election.

Although analysts say his party has no chances of winning at national level given its lack of finance and infrastructure. 

Its showing in Delhi has underlined its potential to damage the hopes of the BJP and Congress when the world's biggest democracy goes to the polls.

The Congress-led national government has been hit by a string of mega corruption scandals. 

Ranging from allegations of illegal distribution of cut-price telecom licences to the 2010 graft-tainted Commonwealth Games. (AFP)

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