The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) founder-leader, Arvind Kejriwal, is all set to be Delhi’s chief minister after announcing that his party will form a government with the Congress’ backing to end a fortnight-long deadlock.
Kejriwal (45), met Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and staked his claim to assume office. Without specifying a date, he said he and his ministers would take oath at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan in the heart of Delhi. The Ramlila ground is where Gandhian Anna Hazare’s 12-day fast in 2011 for a Jan Lokpal triggered mass solidarity protests across India. Kejriwal and Hazare were together then but have since fallen out.
A confident Kejriwal later asserted that the AAP, which has only 28 seats in the 70-member assembly, had the legislative majority to rule Delhi. “We are in a majority and we will form the government,” he said, without specifically mentioning the critical support of the eight Congress legislators. “Let the opposition pass a no-confidence motion.”
He said he told Jung that “we are ready to form the government”. And quick to get down to business, Kejriwal conducted a “training session” for his 27 fellow legislators, some of whom had never had a brush with politics until the AAP decided to contest elections. Delhi’s former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who lost to Kejriwal by over 25,000 votes, gave her “best wishes” to the AAP, saying, “We know the promises (they made) are difficult to fulfil.” The promises include drastically slashing power tariff and providing 700 litres of water daily to all households.
The Lt Governor invited the AAP to try to form a government after the Bharatiya Janata Party, which finished with 31 seats, declined to do so as it lacked majority support. The Congress, in order to slight the BJP, announced that its eight legislators would prop up the AAP. The AAP decided to seek people’s views on whether or not it should take support from the Congress. That led to a five-day referendum where people were asked to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. On Monday, Kejriwal announced that an overwhelming majority had given their thumbs up to an AAP government. “Majority of the people wanted us to form the government,” he said.
Kejriwal to lead
An engineer by training and a former Indian Revenue Service officer whose social activism won him the Ramon Magsaysay award, Kejriwal didn’t say who the new chief minister would be. But party leader Manish Sisodia declared that the top post would go to Kejriwal, who led the one-year-old AAP to a dream debut in the election in which the Congress was routed.
“We fought the elections under his leadership, and all the MLAs have selected him as the chief minister candidate,” said Sisodia. He added that of the thousands who responded to the AAP referendum, around 1,57,000 people in Delhi, or 74 per cent of those who took part in the exercise in the capital, wanted the party to take power. Besides soliciting responses on the social media and through SMS, the AAP held some 280 public meetings. In 257 of them, the majority voted for an AAP government, he said.