Desi Talk - page 14

or one dubbed a maverick
and written off politically
less than a year ago, Arvind
Kejriwal has proved to be more
wily than his seasoned political
rivals who underestimated this
slightly built, doughty fighter who
has made an incredible comeback
by scripting his second sensation-
al election victory in the space of
just 15 months.
After being a lone ranger for
years when he battled corruption
by contractors and officials in a
Delhi slum, the former govern-
ment official-turned activist-
turned-chief minister has become
a household name across India
with his direct style and uncon-
ventional dressing that earned
him this time the sobriquet of
“Muffler Man” because of the way
he campaigned through Delhi’s
severe winter wrapped in colorful
But those who have known
him for long say Kejriwal is much
more than an activist-turned-
politician devoted to battling cor-
ruption. He knows his mission.
“AK is really focussed,” said
Pankaj Gupta, a former IT profes-
sional who has known the 46-
year-old leader for 15 years. “He
has clear thinking. He is a very
tough taskmaster.”
Gupta, who has been with the
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since it
was born in 2012, says the former
Delhi chief minister, otherwise a
diabetic, is very energetic – a trait
he shares with Prime Minister
Narendra Modi.
But what friends like about
Kejriwal is that despite his stun-
ning political success, he lives and
dresses simply, has no airs about
himself, has a spiritual bent of
mind and respects elders. In fact
he displayed a puckish sense of
humor when he reportedly told
the online chat showThe Viral
Fever: “Political parties criticize
me for my political statement;
you are criticizing me for my fash-
ion statement. At home my wife
criticizes me for my bank state-
ment. Everyone just criticizes
After the AAP was routed
across the country in the 2014 Lok
Sabha election, and Kejriwal per-
sonally lost a prestigious battle to
Narendra Modi in
Varanasi, there was
gloom in the party.
Kejriwal – who had
earlier quit as Delhi’s
chief minister after
just 49 days –
became a butt of
The I-care-a-
damn Kejriwal was
the first to come out
of the shock.
Showing uncommon
resilience for a politi-
cal rookie, he imme-
diately began to
rebuild the bruised
AAP, now determined
to claw back to
power in the capital.
His personality
ensured that despite
some desertions, the
bulk of AAP’s volun-
teers remained with
him, sharing his ide-
alism and confidence
that the party could
bounce back.
And when it did in the Feb. 7
Delhi election, the BJP and the
Congress – who had mocked at
him a “bagoda” (quitter) – had egg
on their face. There was also a
grudging respect for the born
Much before embracing poli-
tics, Kejriwal for years fought for
the rights of the urban poor as he
took up issues – from transparen-
cy to corruption. But few knew
him, even after he got the Ramon
Magsaysay award in the
Philippines, an honor often
described as Asia’s Nobel Prize.
It was Kejriwal who dramati-
cally transformed the anti-cor-
ruption movement of social
activist Anna Hazare into a suc-
cessful political party in just two
years and took to politics much
against his mentor’s wishes as he
knew that, if he had to change
things in the country, there was
no other way but the political
Kejriwal was born Aug. 16, 1968
in a middle class family in Siwan
village in Haryana where he had
early education in English-medi-
ummissionary schools. The eld-
est of three children grew up with
a Hindu religious mindset. But
religion faded away in college.
Kejriwal wanted to be a doctor.
But he went to the Indian
Institute of Technology at
Kharagpur instead, studying
mechanical engineering. He went
on to join the Indian Revenue
Service. He married a colleague,
and they have two children,
Harshita and Pulkit.
As an officer in the income tax
department notorious for corrup-
tion, Kejriwal did what few would
have dared – he tried to clean up
the systemwithin. A
chastened income
tax department was
forced to implement
his reforms to make
itself more transpar-
ent and less capri-
While on leave,
Kejriwal unleashed a
“Don’t Pay Bribes”
campaign at the
electricity depart-
ment. He asked visi-
tors not to pay
bribes and offered to
facilitate their deal-
ings for free.
By then, he had
founded an NGO,
Parivartan (Change),
which put to use the
Delhi Right to
Information Act of
2001 to expose
mind-boggling swin-
dling of money by
corrupt officers and
contractors at
Sundernagari, a
slum area.
His dedication fetched him the
Ramon Magsaysay award in
2006 – for “emergent leadership”.
But it was his decision to join
forces with Hazare that made
Kejriwal a household name in
Delhi in 2011.
While Hazare returned to his
village in Maharashtra after the
government caved in to mass
protests, Kejriwal kept up the
tempo, branching off from the
India Against Corruption group to
form the AAP in November 2012.
The AAP steadily expanded its
influence in Delhi as it took up
one public issue after another,
undermining the Congress and
the BJP.
Kejriwal was not content with
just fighting petty officials. He
called Congress president Sonia
Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra
corrupt. And he also targeted then
BJP president Nitin Gadkari. In
December 2013, the AAP stunned
everyone by bagging 28 of Delhi’s
70 seats, reducing the then ruling
Congress to a single digit and pre-
venting the Bharatiya Janata Party
from getting a majority.
Kejriwal himself created histo-
ry by defeating three-time chief
minister Sheila Dikshit by over
25,000 votes.
But the 49 days he was chief
minister with Congress backing
proved to be tumultuous. Kejriwal
lost much of middle class support
as he took to the streets against
Delhi Police and did a two-night
long ‘dharna’ (sit-in) close to
Rajpath just before Republic Day
Critics declared the man
would always be a street fighter
and an anti-establishment pro-
tester, never an administrator.
Kejriwal re-invented himself
after the Lok Sabha debacle,
rebuilding the AAP brick by brick,
with the help of close associates
and dedicated volunteers. By the
time Delhi elections were
announced for February 2015, the
man had gained much of the
goodwill he had lost.
For all his activism and politics,
Kejriwal is a movie buff and loves
to crack and hear jokes. Friends
say he would often pull others’
legs. “He is honest to the core,”
says Manish Sisodia, who was a
minister in Kejriwal’s government.
“And courageous. It is not often
you find a man both honest and
– that’s all you need to know
February 13, 2015
Continued from page 12
“The result has shown us that
democracy has a natural tendency
to throw up alternatives,” Priyam
added. “The people may have
voted for the BJP and Modi at the
national level just last May, but
they wanted a local leader on the
Election analysts said the resi-
dents in India’s capital city voted
across class lines for Kejriwal. His
party promised voters a slew of
populist measures if elected to
power, including free water,
cheaper electricity, affordable
housing for the poor, easy study
loans and free wi-fi. In contrast,
the BJP had said they would turn
the teeming capital into a world-
class city.
Rajesh Rajamoni, a 27-year old
plumber who lives in an impover-
ished slum of laborers, said he
voted for the AAP because he
wanted a government that under-
stood the problems of the poor.
“I have seen many big leaders
giving big speeches. But Arvind
Kejriwal is an ordinary man, he
speaks like us,” said Rajamoni.
“Being poor in a big city is not
easy.We are always harassed for
bribes by the police, by municipal
corporation officers.We want a
leader who will take on the cor-
The BJP, Rajamoni said, was a
party of “rich people, big people.”
To counter Kejriwal’s image as
the anti-corruption crusader, the
BJP brought in his former ally
from the movement, Kiran Bedi,
who was India’s most famous
female police officer.
But Bedi, 65, failed to connect
with many voters, and indeed
with the rank-and-file of her own
party who resented her as an out-
sider who was thrust upon them
in recent weeks. Some voters in
the slum said she spoke to them
like a police inspector still.
Social commentator Mukul
Kesavan wrote on an NDTV blog
item that Bedi spoke with the
scolding tone of a teacher and
with humorless self-righteous-
“Poor people suffer the most at
the hands of the police, and the
BJP made the mistake of bringing
in a former police officer as their
candidate for chief minister of
Delhi,” said the analyst Priyam.
The BJP continued to rely heav-
ily on Modi’s image and put his
face on billboards across the city
with the tag line: “Let’s march with
Modi.” But the campaign styles of
the two party leaders sharply
While Modi flew down in a spe-
cial chopper from his office to
address large public meetings in
the city, Kejriwal addressed voters
in dozens of small, street-corner
meetings and focused on local
issues. As Modi gave grand-
sounding stump speeches and
wore expensive clothes while
hosting with President Obama
with round-the-clock media cov-
erage ahead of the polls, Kejriwal
quietly worked the crowded lanes
of slums wearing, as usual, his
wool muffler around his head.
Santosh Desai, a newspaper
columnist, wrote on Feb. 9 that
Kejriwal restored “to politics its
feisty localness of spirit,” while
Modi continued to be the master
of grand “aerial battles.”
Kejriwal, 45, started his early
career working for India’s tax serv-
ice, but became disillusioned by
corruption he saw in the Indian
bureaucratic and political system.
He worked with the city’s poor,
demanding greater transparency
in government programs for
many years before he spearhead-
ed nationwide street demonstra-
tions against rampant corruption
in 2011 which, at the time, was
called “India’s Arab Spring.” In
2012, he formed his own political
party with some of the activists of
the Aam Aadmi Party. Bedi parted
ways with him at that time, saying
she did not want to be part of a
formal political party.
Kejriwal pulled off a surprise
victory in the Delhi elections in
late 2013 by upsetting a popular
three-term chief minister. But his
tenure as the city’s boss was con-
troversial. His administration self-
destructed in just 49 days after
Kejriwal shut down the city center
in a protest over police corrup-
tion, a debacle that damaged his
political career and disillusioned
– TheWashington Post
Arvind Kejriwal’s Soft Exterior Hides a Man of Steel
AAP Crushes BJP and Congress in Delhi Electoral Landslide
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