Fledgling Common Man Party poised to form government in New Delhi

Party founded on anti-corruption principles received strong showing in provincial polls, writes Rahul Bedi in New Delhi

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the newly formed Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP), speaks with the media after his meeting with  Delhi’s lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung in New Delhi yesterday.  Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the newly formed Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP), speaks with the media after his meeting with Delhi’s lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung in New Delhi yesterday. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

 



India’s new Common Man Party – Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – with a strong anti-corruption agenda, is to form the government in the capital New Delhi following a strong showing in recent provincial polls.

Arvind Kejriwal (44), a former civil servant and leader of the one-year-old AAP, will be Delhi’s new chief minister, the party said yesterday, ending two weeks of speculation and fears of a hung assembly.

Mr Kejriwal said the AAP, which won 28 of Delhi’s 70 seats – seven short of a simple majority – would take outside support from the Congress Party, which ruled the federal capital for 15 years but was trounced in the December 4th elections.

In a departure from previous years and in keeping with the AAP’s “citizen’s touch”, the new administration’s swearing- in will take place in a sprawling public park often used for huge political rallies and religious congregations.

Earlier, the principal Opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the single largest winner in the Delhi elections with 32 seats, declined to form the government as it did not have the requisite majority.

The AAP, born out of a strong anti-corruption movement that swept India two years ago, presents itself as the party with a difference. It claims it will change the corrupt, cynical and uncaring manner in which politics has been pursued in India by the 128-year-old Congress Party and the BJP.

Beset by corruption scandals, maladministration and nepotism, the Congress Party secured only eight seats in Delhi. Voters also failed to give the BJP a majority as the AAP campaigned furiously and promised a clean governance alternative not known for decades.

Mr Kejriwal says the party can now fulfil promises made in its election manifesto. These include public accessibility to decision-makers, reducing exorbitant power rates, ensuring 700 litres of free water for each household, eliminating corruption and ensuring inclusive governance. It also pledged to send corrupt politicians to jail and to end the VIP culture of Delhi’s political elite, promises critics have dismissed as extravagant and unrealistic.

The AAP has indicated that it wants to field candidates across the country in the general elections scheduled to be held before May 2014. Although analysts say it stands little chance of winning at the national level, given its lack of finance and infrastructure, its showing in Delhi has underlined its potential to damage the BJP and Congress and change the dynamics of India’s politics.