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Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s new chief minister, stormed to power in the national capital in December on an anti-corruption platform.
His Aam Aadmi Party, or “Common Man’s Party”, uses a broom as its symbol to suggest it is sweeping the dirt out of politics. Kejriwal, a bespectacled former tax collector, spoke to Reuters in a wide-ranging interview a month after getting the top job, from the same modest apartment he’s lived in for the past 15 years. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the first part of the interview. Reuters will publish parts two and three over the next few days.
On Monday night — surrounded by idols of the deity Ganesh (known in Hinduism as the remover of obstacles), books on Mahatma Gandhi and the translated Quran, activism awards, plastic flowers, and of course a broom — Kejriwal sipped a glass of warm water for his bronchitis as he spoke.
The interview comes as the party faces growing criticism on how it is governing Delhi. In one of the latest incidents involving the party, Kejriwal’s law minister Somnath Bharti led a raid earlier in January on what he described as the homes of African prostitute gangs and drug dealers. The raid led to accusations of vigilantism even as Bharti said he had to conduct the raids because the police failed to act on people’s complaints. Bharti was accused of leading a mob that illegally detained and harassed a group of African women.
Kejriwal started a sit-in demonstration, which erupted in violence, to protest against alleged inaction by the city’s police force. At the protest, Kejriwal held up a letter that he said a Ugandan official sent him, thanking them for the raid. Local media later reported that the letter was an old one. Kejriwal called off the protest after two days when the police agreed to send two officers on leave.