New Delhi (IANS): Sounding more mature and pragmatic in his second innings, AAP leader and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday pledged to make Delhi India’s first corruption-free city and end “VIP culture” even as he warned his colleagues against “arrogance” after his party’s thumping election win.
Addressing some 100,000 cheering supporters at the Ramlila Maidan after being sworn in, Kejriwal, 46, also sought the status of a full state for Delhi, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi had too many issues to take care of and Delhi must be left to Delhiites.
And the Aam Aadmi Party leader — sporting his party’s white cap with the words “Main hoon aam aadmi” (I am a common man) — reached out to his vanquished rivals, Kiran Bedi of the BJP and Ajay Maken of the Congress, saying he would consult both on how to develop Delhi. He called Bedi his “elder sister”.
A few hours later, Kejriwal – sounding and looking unwell – drove to the Delhi Secretariat. He came to the venue after taking Crocin. In a first of its kind in the country, the AAP announced that Kejriwal will not hold any portfolio but only oversee the work of ministers and legislators.
The decision makes his long-time confidant Manish Sisodia, 43, the most powerful minister.
“After our (earlier) 49 days in office, we have the confidence that we will finish off corruption in Delhi,” the 46-year-old Kejriwal said to loud cheers at the ground. “We have to make Delhi the first corruption-free city in India. We can do it.”
And repeating the lines from his Ramlila Maidan speech of 2013, Kejriwal urged people to covertly record on their mobile phones demands for bribes by officials and send the recording to him. “We will take the strictest action,” he said, triggering another approving roar.
Kejriwal said a Helpline number he had announced in his first stint would be restarted — for people to complain about corruption. His government would also pass the Jan Lokpal bill.
It was a sea of caps at the sprawling ground in the heart of the capital. Hundreds who couldn’t get in packed the roads as well as balconies and rooftops of nearby buildings. There was unending slogan shouting. People came not only from Delhi but other states too.
The huge gathering went wild as Kejriwal took the oath of office from Lt Governor Najeeb Jung — followed by six ministers — and then spoke in Hindi. Besides Sisodia, the deputy chief minister, the other ministers are Satyendra Jain, Sandeep Kumar, Gopal Rai, Asim Ahmed Khan and Jitendra Singh Tomar.
Speaking from his heart, Kejriwal admitted that the AAP’s decision to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election — he himself took on Modi in Varanasi and lost — was a blunder.
He urged his ministers, legislators and AAP colleagues never to show arrogance saying this had derailed the Congress and the BJP. “If arrogance creeps in, we will not be able to fulfil our mission.”
The AAP won 67 of the 70 seats, leaving three to the BJP. “I know people of Delhi love us. But I didn’t know they love us so much.” Calling the result a “miracle”, he said God was trying to convey a message. “We have to understand the message.”
Like last time, Kejriwal announced a ban on what he called VIP culture, including red beacon lights on official vehicles and strutting around in public places with a phalanx of security. He said Indians wanted a society where political leaders would also travel in buses like in many European countries.
The former income tax officer and a Magsaysay award winner decried statements by AAP colleagues that after the Delhi victory, the party would expand to other states. This, he said, smacked of arrogance.
“God has ordered us, the people of Delhi have ordered us to serve them… All the coming five years I will serve only the people of Delhi.”
He said he told Modi that the AAP stood for “constructive cooperation” with the central government, and it was time the capital Delhi was granted full statehood.
“As prime minister, he is very busy. He has to think about the country, he has to go abroad… Please leave Delhi to the people of Delhi… I am confident Modi will think about this positively.”
He said that although Delhi Police didn’t come under his control, his government would make Delhi a secure city for people of all religions and communities.
Referring to the Hindu-Muslim riots in east Delhi and the recent attacks on churches and Christian institutions, Kejriwal said Delhi had never seen troubles of this sort for 35 long years. “People of Delhi want peace. They won’t tolerate this.”
He ended his 30-minute address by singing a song on brotherhood and communal amity, which he asked the crowd to sing with him, demonstrating yet again how this unusual and in some ways maverick stood out from the rest of the political flock.
Shortly after the speech, the AAP government said that its focus would be on curbing corruption, controlling price rise, and providing uninterrupted power and water.