Arvind Kejriwal: ‘aam aadmi’ scripts extraordinary win to return as Delhi CM
New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal, engineer, civil servant and Delhi’s man with a development agenda, is the David who slayed the mighty Goliath for the second time in five years.
The Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party is poised to win 63 of Delhi’s 70 seats, leaving the BJP with seven and decimating the Congress, overcoming the BJP’s divisive campaign.
Nine years ago, Kejriwal slipped into the political frame behind Anna Hazare during the Lokpal movement in 2011 before quickly enlarging his canvas, first as a satyagrah activist and then as founder of the cleverly named Aam Aadmi Party that took on the might of the BJP to reclaim Delhi for a third time on Tuesday.
The name of his party as carefully chosen as his public persona perhaps, Delhi’s 51-year-old chief minister is the embodiment of the everyday man but one who has tailored his politics and campaign in keeping with the times.
As he emerged on the victory stage to loud cheers from his AAP supporters and shouted Bharat Mata ki Jai , Inquilab Zindabad and Vande Mataram before saying I love you to Delhiites, many remembered the earnest activist who went on a hunger strike for a Lokpal bill in 2011.
The year after, in 2012, he started his political party and emerged as a mascot of an alternative brand of politics and the aam aadmi’ politician with his muffler casually wrapped around his neck, and sometimes his head, oversized shirts and open toed sandals.
Though his ambitions to make the AAP a national party have not met with much success, the Delhi chief minister’s hat is one that will stay — for the next five years at least.
His effort to be seen as a direct challenger to Narendra Modi came a cropper in 2014 when he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi. He tried to make an electoral dent in Punjab and Goa in 2017 but that didn’t work either. So Delhi it is for the moment.
In 2013, he became chief minister but only for 49 days, images of him sleeping in his utilitarian Wagon R while on dharna’ for a Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) wrapped in a cotton quilt against the cold winter nights making the front pages.
Battling allegations of being autocratic and unyielding in his politics, Kejriwal resigned soon after, only to bide his time till 2015 when he scripted a stunning win to bag 67 of Delhi’s 70 seats.
Earning the moniker mufflerman’ for his fondness for the muffler, Kejriwal runs his party with the proverbial iron fist and has learnt to temper his aggression, say people close to him.
He has mellowed since his days as the rebel leader on a ‘dharna’, carefully calibrating his political message and refusing to be baited by the BJP which made the anti-CAA protests in ‘Shaheen Bagh’ its campaign centrepiece.
During the election campaign, Kejriwal attacked BJP on several occasions, asking who is their chief ministerial candidate. He was careful, however, to not speak out too clearly on the Shaheen Bagh protests.
Notwithstanding the electoral triumph for BJP in the May Lok Sabha polls, the IIT graduate has managed to anchor a campaign that wooed all sections in the city.
He announced in the beginning of the campaign that he will run a positive campaign fought on the basis of his government’s development work in the last five years.
His main poll planks were schemes such as free bus travel for women in DTC buses, free 200 units of electricity, installation of 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras and free 20,000 litres of water.
He was called a “terrorist” by BJP leaders, but Kejriwal hit back saying voters could back the BJP if they thought so or opt for his party if they view him as a son of Delhi.
Born on August 16, 1968 in Hisar in Haryana to Gobind Ram Kejriwal and Gita Devi, Kejriwal is a man of simple tastes.
His family is always by his side.
Kejriwal, who lives with his parents, wife Sunita and two children, is often seen going out for a quiet meal or the occasional film. Both daughter Harshita and son Pulkit are IIT products.
On Tuesday, the self confessed film buff and fond husband told his cheering supporters from the victory dais that it was Sunita’s birthday.
A strict vegetarian who prefers home-made food, Kejriwal is married to Sunita, who is also an Indian Revenue Service officer and his batchmate. He is known to be an ardent practitioner of Vipassana, and seldom misses his yoga and meditation sessions.
The Ramon Magsaysay award winner was part of Team Anna that also included India’s first woman IPS officer and now Puducherry governor Kiran Bedi and lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
He was the civil society representative member of the committee constituted by the government to draft the Jan Lokpal bill, following the campaign for introduction of the anti-graft legislation.
Kejriwal did a degree in Mechanical Engineering graduate from IIT Kharagpur.
He joined Tata Steel in 1989 and, after working for three years, resigned in 1992 to take up the Union Public Service Commission examination which he cleared to become an IRS officer. He also worked with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata.
Kejriwal worked with people in slums through an NGO called Parivartan he set up with his confidant Manish Sisodia.
His efforts towards the enactment of the RTI Act to empower the poorest citizens of India won him the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership in 2006.
In February 2006, after resigning as joint commissioner in the Income Tax Department, he became a full-time activist and started another NGO, Public Cause Research Foundation, with his award money as a corpus fund.
Will this man with many accomplishments manage to break out of Delhi to extend his political reach to other parts of the country?
That’s the challenge facing the AAP today.